William F. Deeck

TODD DOWNING – The Cat Screams. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1934. Popular Library #68, paperback, 1945. Wildside Press, softcover, 2008; Coachwhip Publications, softcover, 2012.

   In what appears to be the second in the series of six [sic] books featuring U.S. Customs agent Hugh Rennert, Rennert is in Taxco, Mexico, on vacation. It turns out to be a busman’s holiday since the night he arrives one of the people staying at the pension of Madame Fournier is smothered in his bed.

   It doesn’t help matters that the town doctor`s assistant suspects one-of the servants has smallpox and quarantines the group. Then another murder occurs, adding to Rennert’s problems. On each occasion Mura, the cat, has screamed, for reasons perhaps supernatural, perhaps not.

   Several strengths: An interesting picture of the American expatriate view of Mexico and an excellent investigation, with quite subtle clues, by Rennert. The weaknesses: A gloomy and depressing novel, with no humorous relief; none of the characters are particularly engaging, including Rennert; a great deal of the dialogue is Spanish translated into English, with which I have no problem, except when the author includes Spanish words in the translation, something I always find jarring.

— Reprinted from MYSTERY READERS JOURNAL, Vol. 6, No. 2, Summer 1990, “Vacation for Murder.”

Editorial Comment:   Bill was correct in saying this was the second Hugh Rennert adventure, but in fact there were seven books in the series, not six. Downing’s other two mysteries feature Sheriff Peter Bounty of Hesperides County, Texas. All nine of them are currently easily available from Coachwhip Publications.