Review

Red Cat

by Peter Spiegelman



Peter Spiegelman is not a prolific writer, at least by today's
one-book-per-year standard. In the past six years he has published
three books --- BLACK MAPS, DEATH'S LITTLE HELPERS and now RED CAT
--- at two-year intervals, just long enough that the readership
could almost forget the razor sharpness and clarity of the
craftsmanship exhibited in his prior work. There is simply no way,
however, that anyone reading RED CAT will ever forget about him.
This is a towering work, an instant classic of noir fiction, that
establishes Spiegelman's position as the master of the genre for
our time.

John March is Spiegelman's damaged Everyman --- an underachiever by
the standards of his financially successful family --- who, as
Spiegelman has subtly informed his readers over the course of three
novels, is probably more intelligent than all of them put together.
March is a quietly roiling mass of contradictions, a man who
ultimately is unsuccessful at relationships whether it be with
family, friends or lovers, but is intrigued by the machinations and
interactions of individuals. His vocation as a private investigator
in New York City provides him with plenty of grist to mill. Yet
even he is surprised when his latest client turns out to be his
outwardly superior brother, David, a successful merchant banker who
is on the brink of losing everything he holds dear.

David, it seems, has a hobby that consists of conducting a series
of affairs with women he meets over the Internet. The affairs are
generally passionate, if short-lived, with everyone being very
adult and sophisticated about their eventual termination. But then
comes Wren, a mysterious woman who has provided David with sexual
encounters unlike any he has previously experienced. When David
seeks to discontinue the relationship, however, Wren begins calling
his office and home, and sends him emails asking to see him and
threatening to tell his wife about their trysts. David wants John
to find Wren and warn her off, a task made difficult by the fact
that David doesn't know where Wren lives or even what her real name
is.

With a bit of dogged work, John is able to uncover Wren's identity
and, with some more determination, finds her apartment. The
apartment seems to be a dead end, even as he discovers that the
woman his brother knows as Wren is an actress, a playwright and,
most significantly, a pornographer. Everything changes, though,
when a body that appears to be Wren's surfaces in the East River.
John realizes that the trail of Wren's murderer leads directly back
to David's door and that he needs to unravel all of Wren's secrets,
even as he must face uncomfortable truths about David and
himself.

RED CAT is a dark, brooding work, full of secrets, shame and
desperation in even the most unexpected corners. Spiegelman's New
York is full of shadows and sorrows, where survival at the end of
the day passes for a grim happiness. His clarity of language and
vision is such, however, that one cannot resist looking again and
again at what is being lost and, in rare cases, being found. This
is a book that simply cannot and should not be missed.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011

Red Cat
by Peter Spiegelman

  • Publication Date: February 6, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • ISBN-10: 0307263169
  • ISBN-13: 9780307263162