You're without a definitive idea for a thesis, you've had to have your beloved cat put down, you're working temporarily in a corporate snakepit, you've discovered your temporary roommate's murdered body -- and you're suspected of killing him. Grad students' lives aren't generally this complicated, but Clea Simon makes it all work in Shades of Grey (216 pages, Severn House, $28.95), the first in her projected series featuring Dulcie Schwartz. The author of four books featuring Cambridge, Mass., rock journalist Theda Krakow, Simon steps boldly onto a new path with Harvard student Dulcie. And though this is a fine whodunit, it's not just another mystery. Simon gives it a hint of the supernatural -- Dulcie thinks the spirit of her late cat, Mr. Grey, is trying to warn and protect her -- as well as subplots involving hacked computers and Gothic novels. Dulcie's an intriguing and sympathetic lead character, Simon's plot is well-conceived and the feline angle satisfies without being overplayed. And "Shades of Grey" reminds us that our pets are never gone from our hearts. Give this one a blue ribbon.
– Richmond Times Dispatch