A BOWL OF WARM MILK AND MURDER

The kitteh is surprised

evil cat, talking cat, talking cat mysteries

I was shocked — SHOCKED — to learn that there are mystery novels featuring talking cats, cats who help old British ladies solve murders and whatnot.

Then my mind was blown to itty bitty pieces when I heard this isn’t a fluke. There isn’t a solo author who did this and was magically successful at it. Many, many authors write Talking Cat Cozy Mysteries, and people hand over pieces of paper decorated with dead presidents to buy these novels and read them.

So much so that Talking Cat Cozies are an entire flipping sub-genre now, just like there’s an entire section in the bookstore dedicated to Sparkly Vampires and the Angsty Teenagers Who Love Them.

Everybody knows cats can’t talk. Porcupines, now, talk up a storm.

This made me think, which is always dangerous.

What if somebody wrote a Talking Cat Mystery where the cat … is secretly the killer?

So I wrote the first chapter of an evil talking cat mystery. Here’s the first page.

 

A BOWL OF  WARM MILK AND MURDER

Chapter 1: My Secret

It should not surprise you that I know words. Even the Dog knows words, and does tricks, and he is Simple.

He did not stop chewing his bone while I sat in the lap of the Woman and watched the Glowing Box show a story about a sheep dog that knows thousands of words.

I would not know so many words without the Glowing Box.

I sat beside the Boy as we watched the Sesame Street to learn about letters and numbers and words.

He grew taller. I learned all I could.

When they left the house, I pushed the buttons on the Boy’s ABC toy to know letters and sounds. To spell small words. I learned how to press the button on the small stick to make the Glowing Box come alive and go to sleep. To climb on the boxes in the garage to push the other button to make the Biggest Door open and close, the door they use to keep the Metal Horse asleep in its cage.

Oh, I learned many things. And I know these things must be Secrets that the Woman and the Boy cannot know.

Tonight, I have a bigger secret.

After the Boy and the Woman go upstairs, where I am not allowed, I will sneak out of the Dog’s little door.

I will walk very far.

And then I will kill a Man.

FROM DUSK TILL DAWN is a mini-movie masterpiece by Zayn and Sia

Why is this so good?

First, it looks amazing, and could easily pass for bits of a real noir movie, a dark mystery.

Yet what really hits me is how brilliantly this video uses minimalism.

There’s no needless exposition. In fact, the only real dialogue comes in a short interrogation scene, and it doesn’t get into much detail.

This is a huge strength. Trying to give all of these characters names and motivations that you’ll remember in a little music video is like ice skating uphill.

We don’t need to know the names of the man and the woman with the briefcases, the cops trying to bust them or the bad guys looking to steal the briefcase. There’s no real need to know exactly what’s in the second briefcase, how our heroes obtained it or what’s inside.

Making the briefcase a true MacGuffin adds to the mystery and actually helps the story. Not knowing any names or backstories also makes you more curious about them.

VERDICT: There’s a fine line between (a) keeping enough secrets from your audience to make them curious and (b) confusing your audience with events and characters that make no sense. FROM DUSK TILL DAWN nails it. The story works, and moves fast, without any stray exposition.