By Jay Strafford

A most unusual detective team — a girl and a cat — returns for a second outing in “As Dark as My Fur” (208 pages, Severn House, $28.99), the second installment in Clea Simon’s newest series.

Carrie “Care” Wright is in her early teens and has taken over her murdered mentor’s business. Blackie is a cat — and the novel’s narrator. When Care is approached by a manufacturer named Gravitch who wants her to find his employee Dingo, Blackie distrusts his motives. But Care takes the job, and the two travel through an unnamed, benighted city on their search.

When they discover a corpse, the stakes rise exponentially, as Care detects and Blackie protects. Along the way, Simon reveals more of their backgrounds.

A combination of hard-boiled crime novel, feline fiction, corruption and even a touch of the supernatural, “As Dark as My Fur” — the latest product of Simon’s imaginative mind — offers a gritty look at the sleazy side of urban life, and the biped and the quadruped who confront it.

Jay Strafford is a retired writer and editor for The Times-Dispatch. Contact him at