Tangled Web UK Review September 2000
File Updated: 09/10/00
Stray by Vicki Allan
pbk out October 00 (4th Estate)
This book is hard to categorise, as although there is a murder in it, this is almost incidental and not a single policeman hoves over the horizon. It can best be described as a horror fantasy, but the very weird story is balanced by a superb standard of writing. Without giving away too much of the plot, the story concerns a young woman who is a cat-behaviour consultant who takes up with a new partner, a dog-loving dentist.
There must be a substantial element of autobiography in the book, as the jacket blurb says that the author, a young lady depicted inside the cover, studied to be a vet, but is now a writer living in Edinburgh with her cat. She is obviously mad about cats – but hopefully not as mad as her creation Milla, the girl in the book.
She also studied to be a vet (unsuccessfully) and lives with her cat Tibbs. However, Milla becomes fascinated by a stray albino puss called Purrl who condescends to move in, gradually taking over the girl, whose becomes obsessed with the animal. From this point life, is all downhill for Milla, the details of which I cannot reveal, but I assure you become gruesome in the extreme, even for a hardened forensic pathologist like the reviewer. This kind of story is a no-win option for a writer and the finale is frankly disappointing, though I cannot see any way in which such an extraordinary tale could be completed satisfactorily.
But Vicky Allan is a cracking good writer, able to pick up and portray so many little incidents in life that we all recognise and empathise with – one trivial but characteristic event sticks in my memory, the fact that before her new boy-friend comes to her house, she pushes the tin of economy tomato soup to the back of the cupboard!
There is no indication of whether this is the author’s first book, but a writer as good as this is sure to be seen again soon.


( Bernard Knight - Author of the highly acclaimed Crowner John series set in Medieval Devon)

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