Cat’s Paw by Bill Pronzini Cat's Paw by Bill Pronzini
Narrator: Stacy Keach
Series: Nameless Detective
Published by Audio Holdings on June 19, 2009 (first published 1983)
Source: Audible Channels
Genres: Mystery, Short Story
Length: 42 mins
Format: Audiobook
Audible
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Expensive and endangered animals are being stolen from the Felishhacker Zoo. At the behest of a previous client who also happens to be an animal enthusiast, the Nameless Detective takes the case and finds himself patrolling the zoo after hours as a night watchman. He has one theory about the thefts already: the animals are being stolen by a collector or someone who knows their worth on the black market. However, as the Nameless Detective searches for answers, the clues begin to debunk his theory that the job was done by an outsider.

“Cat’s Paw” is my first experience with the new Audible channels, which are free for members. It’s one of the selections available on the mystery channel. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work, but you click on the channel and it gives you a list of available titles and how long the selections are. I was on my lunch hour, taking the dog for a walk, so 40-ish minutes was perfect for me. I will definitely be seeing what other stories are available on the various channels.

“Cat’s Paw” won the Shamus Award in 1984 for “Best Private Eye Short Story.” The mystery itself was good. I’ve never read any in Pronzini’s “Nameless Detective” series, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment of this short story. The zoo makes for an interesting setting and Pronzini is wonderful with descriptions. What starts for our nameless detectives as a job investigating rare animal thefts turns into discovering who is a killer. It’s a short story, which means few clues, but also a limited cast, so while I didn’t guess the whodunnit, it wasn’t exactly a surprise either. It’s more of a puzzle mystery than a run about town seeking clues mystery. The story fit together well.

The narration by Keach was well-done, but he might have made the story feel a bit more noir than it otherwise would have. The only real violence happens off-screen and our detective does not feel overly cynical or “tough” in that hard-boiled way. I feel like I got to know the “nameless detective” a bit, enough to want to read more in the series.

About Bill Pronzini

Bill Pronzini (born April 13, 1943) is an American writer of detective fiction. He is also an active anthologist, having compiled more than 100 collections, most of which focus on mystery, western, and science fiction short stories.
He is married to Marcia Muller with whom he has collaborated on several novels.