Honestly, what first attracted me to Hard-Boiled Stories From The Cat Bar was the cat on the cover. When I first saw him, I instantly thought of my own black and white tuxedo cat. I figured it had to be fate’s way of insisting that I read this book. So when I finally sat down to read it, I was pleasantly surprised that the book wasn’t really about a cat bar, but a cat-loving hitman assigned to murder a fellow cat lover in a cat bar. This book is basically a bloody, violent mess with a few “meows” here and there.
While I liked the book by the end, I was pretty confused during the beginning and middle. It wasn’t until I got to the end and everything was revealed that I finally understood what I was reading. In a lot of ways the book reminded me of the film Memento. In that film, everything that happens is backwards. It starts off with a dead body and as the film goes on, the viewers slowly learn what led up to the man’s death. In a lot of ways, this book played out much in the same way. It opens with a hitman called the Undertaker entering the cat bar, Kitty and Me. His precious cat of 20 years had just died and he is left too distraught to do his current hit. Then he noticed a fluffy black and white tuxedo cat (better known as Dandy) that the bartender explained is only at the bar temporarily and is just waiting for his owner to return. Suddenly a beaten man tumbled into the bar followed by a man wearing a ski mask with a gun pointed to the disheveled man. Not realizing there would be other people in the building, the gun-wielding man ran out. It then turned out that the hurt man is actually Dandy’s missing owner and the Undertaker’s next target.
The book then goes on to explore what Dandy’s owner did that resulted in a hitman being hired to kill him. What made this book confusing wasn’t necessarily the way the storyline was laid out, but how the three main characters were drawn. I had a lot of trouble discerning who was who because the hitman and his client looked so much alike. At first I thought maybe the two men were the same person and then when they were featured in the same scene, I realized their designs were just very similar.
On top of that, I kept flipping back and forth between the book because it felt like I was missing something the further I read. What I realize now is that the reason why the Undertaker was hired was never really explained. Basically the Undertaker killed Dandy’s former owner, Kajita, in front of Dandy’s current owner, Onodera. Onodera then promised to avenge his friend’s death by finding out what truly happened. But what wasn’t really explained that made everything kind of confusing, was why exactly did Kajita end up getting killed. The entire book left me confused and caused me to have to reread things in hopes that I could figure out what I missed. By the end of the book a lot of things were cleared up, but I still never really found out what Kajita did that got him killed.
Even though the book turned out to be a very frustrating experience for me, it wasn’t all bad. I enjoyed the side characters quite a lot. They actually had different designs and were a lot more interesting. There was a lot of gay innuendo and jokes that made me realize that most of the men in the book were most likely gay, but it wasn’t explicitly said. I also enjoyed the numerous cats throughout the story and their different designs, as well as the notion that a bunch of tough, traditionally masculine men were so obsessed with a bunch of furry meow monsters.
For the most part, I thought the book was an interesting read. I loved the concept and I think there were a lot of things in the book that could have made a great story. I think if there was a bit more editing to make the story a little more clear, then the book would have been a lot more entertaining and a great thriller/mystery.