‘He could foresee the end of the human race. Their downfall would be an obsession with staring at screens. All cats had to do was wait. They would take over…one living room at a time. One day, the world would be theirs. And people would just look on from their screens.’Rear Garden, The Cat Who Knew Too Much
Behind the cheerful and modest York suburb of Acomb, lies a dark tale of murder and deceit. Its residents, unaware of the gruesome crimes that happen behind its semi-detached doors, in its mostly well-trimmed gardens and on the streets looked out on by almost clean windows.
Theodore is the large grey cat who loves tuna as much as he loves solving crimes that humans don’t see until right in front of their faces. Theodore’s new home transforms into the front-room window periphery of gory killings by an unlikely force of evil. Barrie’s feline protagonist is not without his own furry flaws: judgmental and callous to all except his owner, playing to the stereotype of a cat: mean and indescribably self-centred.
Theodore binds the human characters together in truthful exploration of suburban lifestyle; indeed, if he were able to talk the case would be cracked immediately. Through characterisations of locals only found up north and vivid location description, you find yourself in a front room donned with cat fur and DVD cases of Alfred Hitchcock movies. staring out the window into the window behind, questioning what is hidden away in the everyday life.
Rear Garden, with no shortage of humour or literary skill, provides both amusing and terrifying snapshots of what truly goes on in your next door neighbour’s, all with a condescending, obnoxious feline by your side.
I have the pleasure of knowing James through a job I had in the very suburb of Acomb where his text is set, coming together through shared love of authors, music and popular culture. He is an individual rare to come by in today’s world. His insightful recommendations and brilliant yet questionable puns are a powerful inspiration to a young writer like myself. I implore everyone to read Rear Garden and the rest of the series, if not for James, do it for your burning love or seething hatred of cats.
L T Hardy is an English Literature student at York University. He is also an essential worker at the local supermarket where I buy my wine. J B