Celebrating the paperback release of A Cat on the Case, Somerville poet Doug Holder asked me about my “Witch Cats of Cambridge” series and if I’d consider moving the city to my current home in Somerville.

A Cat on the Case by Clea Simon

I lost my beloved cat Ketz this summer. I can attest to the mystery and magic that cats possess. So it came to my attention that Somerville novelist and critic Clea Simon has come out with yet another in her Cambridge Witch Cats Series. It is titled, A Cat on the Case, which concerns a young woman and her band of unique cats, as they try to solve a mystery in the Republic of Cambridge. I am hoping we see a Somerville cat series some time soon!

You have written a lot of cat mysteries–the cats in your latest mystery–are part of your Cambridge Witch Cats Series. Do you anticipate a Somerville cat series? How would a Somerville cat differ from a Cambridge one?

I conceived of the Witch Cats of Cambridge series while I still lived in Cambridge, so I’m afraid I don’t see moving it. (A Cat on the Case is the third Witch Cats of Cambridge mystery.) Though if I do start a new series at some point, I’ll definitely set it in Somerville! Hmmm… a Somerville cat? Maybe younger and hipper – an idiosyncratic tortoiseshell who goes her own way. Kind of like my current feline companion, Thisbe, maybe.

In your book a band of cats are in the employ of an aspiring witch detective. She is investigating the disappearance of a panicked stranger who handed her a violin and then split. The cats use their paranormal and magical powers to solve the mystery. Cats and witches are closely aligned in literature, but is it a unique take for witch detectives and cats? 

I wish I could give you a definitive answer, Doug. I’m not aware of any other amateur sleuths who use their paranormal powers to solve crimes – which is how I’d define “witch detective” in crime fiction parlance, but there may be. I am certainly playing with all the literary and mythological tropes about women, magic, and cats (a topic I got to have great fun with in my nonfiction book, The Feline Mystique: On the Mysterious Connection Between Women and Cats). What I love best about Becca, the human protagonist of A Cat on the Case, is that she thinks she’s the one taking care of the cats, as opposed to the other way around. And that is just based on fact, of course.

The shop where the panicked stranger hands the violin to the protagonist–is that modeled after one shop in particular?

No, I picked details from various shops, including Ritual Arts in Allston. But I added everything I’d want to see in a New Age botanica.

This book also explores the challenges a young woman has trying to cope in an ever-changing New England city. Explain.

A Cat on the Case is light-hearted, fun mystery – what we call a “cozy” in crime fiction – but I believe in making my characters realistic. I can certainly remember what it was like to be young and single and trying to make a living in a changing/gentrifying city, and I think readers will identify with Becca and her struggles – and be grateful that she has three loyal cats to help her!