The Cat Did Not Die
Translated by Laura A. Wideburg
A Caravel Mystery
Pleasure Boat Studio
New York, New York
February 1, 2013
Creepily haunting is how I would best describe the novel, The Cat Did Not Die.
In the hinderlands of Sweden are farms, some of which are deserted and used as summer homes, some as rentals to the farmhands, and some which are part of a small working farm. Life sometimes has different rules in these isolated lands.
Kaarina is accustomed to this life style, but that doesn't mean that she always agrees with it. When her cat has kittens, it is a problem. There is no way that the farm can support a growing cat family. So Holger who is in charge of the farm expects his farm hand to solve the problem with a shot gun. The kittens are in a box just as the gun fires, one kitten miraculously attaches itself to the leg of the farm hand. It must be fate.
This particular farmhand doesn't talk much and has little interactions with anyone, except Holger and Kaarina. However, that doesn't stop his curiousity. When a couple is visiting nearby at their ancestral family home for the summer, he does go into their house and steals two of their pillows while they are out. Why?
While being burgled, the couple who are in a nearby town hear about two escaped prisoners who are considered armed and dangerous. So naturally after realizing that their home had been invaded, the logical conclusion is that there is a possibility that the prisoners had been there. Why steal two pillows?
After this unusual violation, Beth is uncomfortable. Both Ulf and Beth are having difficulty with their relationship involving personal guilt and baggage from many years. Ulf is carrying the burden of leaving his first wife and son and Beth with the birth of twin girls seven years ago who died. Ulf also will not tell Beth that he still loves her which is becoming a major concern.
The farmhand whose curiousity made him steal the pillows keeps watching the two and finally is discovered. Beth who is certain that he is one of the escaped prisoners, goes after him with an ax that was nearby, killing him. Now what do you do?
And yes, the cat observed everything.
The Cat Did Not Die is an uncomfortable tale of guilt and people's relationships that is entirely realistic. Inger Frimansson's writing pulls you into the story so that you are with Beth through every difficult decision allowing you to understand this character completely. The combination of style with the writer and the translator Laura Wideburg created a novel that is completely spellbinding, even when you dislike one of the characters. What is shocking is how the relationships evolve through the guilt of one character and this effect on all their interactions.
Unnerving, well-written, and haunting all describe THE CAT THAT DID NOT DIE with a conclusion that leaves you reflecting on this story.