KAREN KIJEWSKI – Kat’s Cradle. Doubleday, hardcover, March 1992. Bantam, paperback, December 1992.

   Throughout the decade she was active, the 1990s, Karen Kijewski was a prolific and well-regarded mystery writer. She won or was nominated for several awards, and she seemed to be doing well sales-wise. Living in northern California at the time, and perhaps still, she seems to slipped off the map since her final book (so far), Stray Kat Waltz (1998), the ninth adventure for her female PI character, Kat Colorado.


   I admit to being optimistic to adding the parenthetical phrase (so far) in that line above. It’s been 13 years since that last outing, though, so I’d have to agree that the chances are slim to none that we’ll ever see another entry in the series. Someone once suggested to me that when her contract ran out and wasn’t renewed, she decided to call it quits, but as I say, that’s only hearsay, if not an out and out and totally wild guess.

   In Cradle Kat is hired by a young heiress, Paige Morell, whose strong-willed (i.e., domineering) grandmother has just died. She never knew her parents, and she wants Kat to find out more about them. While she takes the job, Kat knows that digging around in the past may bring up more than her client might want to know, but convincing her of that is another story. (And not this one.)

   Her client also appears more than a tog unstable, with many emotional ups and downs as the story goes along. Under the circumstances, it’s nothing very surprising, but it also becomes clear that there’s several important things she’s not telling. Otherwise the case seems straightforward enough, but not so. It turns out to be a thoroughly exhausting affair for Kat, both physically and otherwise.

   That Kat is unable to establish on her part an emotional distance away from the case she’s on is part of the problem. This is Ross Macdonald territory, not Hammett, but Kat is no Lew Archer, who often observes but fails to get involved himself.

   Besides the investigation she finds herself an integral part of, in more ways than one, she allows her relationship with Hank, her close cop friend who lives in Las Vegas – which is more than a short hike from the Sacramento area, her base of operations – to wither away.

   Let’s change that last phrase to something more akin to “actively pushes away.” My feeling is that PI’s should not allow themselves to become romantically involved with clients, suspects, or suspects’ families and friends, nor can you always foresee what will happen on the rebound. There’s more than enough of a hint here to tell you what I found as a fatal flaw to this book’s telling, and you should immediately forget I said anything, if you ever intend to read this book.

   In any case, it was obviously Karen Kijewski’s intent to write a wrenching tale of dysfunctional family relationships, and that is exactly what she did. Kat is lucky to have escaped alive, in more ways than one.

      The Kat Colorado series:

1. Katwalk (1988)
2. Katapult (1990)


3. Kat’s Cradle (1991)
4. Copy Kat (1992)
5. Wild Kat (1994)
6. Alley Kat Blues (1995)


7. Honky Tonk Kat (1996)
8. Kat Scratch Fever (1997)
9. Stray Kat Waltz (1998)