HOUR OF THE CAT features one of
the oddest "pairings" fiction has seen in a long time. The novel,
covering the period between 1936-1938, splits its time between New York and
Berlin. The New York section covers the efforts made by ex-con turned PI,
Finton Dunne, while the Berlin sections give us the trials and tribulations of
Admiral Wilhelm Canaris.
Dunne has been hired to help free
a man falsely convicted of the brutal murder of a woman. Matters are hampered
further when crooked cops want him to leave the matter alone and the doomed
convict himself refuses to cooperate.
While all this is going on,
Canaris has his hands full in Berlin. His Abwehr, the SS and the Gestapo are
all keeping tabs on each other while Hitler and the Nazis go about genocide,
implementing their eugenics programs and preparations for war. It's evil as
usual in the Reich until Canaris gets wind of a coup in the works - a desperate
attempt to stop Hitler before he drags Germany into another war.
What do the two plot lines have
You'll have to read the book to
And you're going to want to,
Now HOUR OF THE CAT does not
barrel along like a freight train. If you're looking for a quick, edge of your
seat read, look elsewhere. No, what Quinn does with this novel is give us some
beautiful prose and well-rounded characters. This is fiction you wallow around
in, savor, take your time with. Dunne is a complex character amongst a tableau
where no one is quite who they seem to be. Canaris is man losing control of his
work and his country. Both characters are well drawn and leap off the page.
Their struggles grab the reader by the throat and keeps the pages turning.
Quinn also does a very admirable
job of recreating the time period. Both sections
are peppered with real life
historical figures and the settings themselves, New York and Berlin of the
1930s, is well rendered with just enough details to create a sense of place
without bogging down the slow unraveling of the plot.
The result is an engaging read. Sure, it takes a long time for
the two plot lines to converge but Quinn's writing makes the journey worthwhile. HOUR OF THE CAT is a compelling novel. In the hands of a lesser writer, one might be tempted to give up on the book after the first 100 pages or so but Quinn is such a good wordsmith that this initial obstacle is easily overlooked. Something of a challenging novel, HOUR OF THE CAT makes for a fitting entry in the growing body of Berlin Noir fiction.