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Literature / Sam the Cat: Detective

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Sam the Cat: Detective is a 1996 mystery novel by Linda Stewart for both adults and children. An Affectionate Parody to the Hard Boiled Detective genre, the story follows Sam, a cat who lives above a mystery bookstore and works as a private eye in exchange for tuna (and for big cases salmon) and finds himself hired to catch a (human) cat burglar and retrieve several valuables.The book has three sequels, The Big Catnap, The Maltese Kitten, and The Great Catsby.


  • And the Adventure Continues: The series ends with San receiving a job offer to find a stolen necklace.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Sam is a firm believer that this trope is true for female humans and cats alike, dismissing gorgeous actress Mary-Beth DeSpain as a suspect the moment he sees her picture in The Big Catnap. While there are a few selfish and unpleasant attractive female cats in the series, none are villainous.
  • Beneath Notice: Played with. Quark the burglar has obviously been to all of the apartments before to make wax impressions of keys to the terrace and get an idea of what jewels to steal but none of the cats can ever remember seeing anyone who fits his description before. It turns out this is because Quark is in fact a menial figure, a painter, but the reason none of the cats recognize him is because they were taken out of the apartment while he was there so the families could avoid the paint fumes and the cats wouldn’t mess up the wet paint.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In The Big Catnap, Sam begins chapter ten by noting that he's ten chapters into the story and is (wrongly) confident that he'll be able to close the case in just two more chapters.
  • Brick Joke: At the end after Sam gathers the other cats to share in his salmon fee everyone else eats the salmon before he can and all that's left for Sam is canned food that turns out to be the atrocious pet food catslop from earlier.
  • Cats Are Mean: Mostly subverted, but occasionally played straight, like with the obese and mocking Scratch, the pet of the local gangster, Category Traitor Wilmer (a poacher's pet), and Rich Bitch Georgia.
  • Cats Hate Water: In The Maltese Kitten, giving the eponymous kitten a bath to wash off hair dye is viewed as Dirty Business by every cat present.
  • Cranky Landlord:
    • Local apartment owner Horton F. Meany is described as quite a sourpuss, although his wrath focuses more on his wrongfully accused employee than his tenants but he also does any repairs they want done cheap, bad, and fast.
    • Casper Gutless owns several apartment buildings, doesn't tolerate tenants being behind on their rent, and dangles the threat of eviction over one shop owner to make him help Gutless with an illegal scheme.
  • Detective Animal: Sam is a calculating cat who is good at sniffing out clues about animal and human criminals and has an information network from other cats.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: The cops instantly believe the burglaries were committed by Max the handyman, using a key to come in through the front door and setting the scene to make it look like an outside burglar. The readers and Sam know that their wrong from the start, due to a cat across the street having seen a burglar climbing the building and dropping down onto terraces.
  • Face of a Thug: In The Maltese kitten, Sam initially views Slasher as nothing more than a weathered, swaggering, hot-tempered alley cat, and Jimmy as a hulking brute. Then he sees Jimmy laugh off some damage Slasher caused to the merchandise in Jimmy's store and nuzzle the cat's cheek while Slasher looks up at him adoringly.
  • Faking the Dead: In The Great Catsby, Rex Trout makes it appear that an intruder shot him and took his body while he absconds with the advance money from the book his Writer's Block kept him from actually writing, as well as money he got blackmailing the supposed subjects of his nonexistent book.
  • Fiery Cover-Up: Prior to The Great Catsby, Harold Rigsby hired an arsonist to burn down his office and destroy the records proving he was a tax cheat.
  • Grande Dame: Lady Anne is a fairly pompous cat who feels being called "helpful" instead of "generous" is tacky.
  • Hard Boiled Detective: Sam gets involved pursuing sinister figures all of the time, roughs up (animal) informants and certainly talks the part.
    Sugary: Do you treat all of your clients like third class mail?
    Sam: Only if their third-class male. First-class female is a whole different thing.
    Sugary: Well you certainly talk like a detective.
  • Identical Twin ID Tag: In the second book, Sandy's "stunt double" James Blond (who dramatically leaps into the view of the camera before Sandy eats the cat food) has a pink nose, while Sandy and his brother Felix have black noses.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Tom, the owner of Sam’s neighboring cat Spike, who is a useful source of information as a result.
  • Is the Answer to This Question "Yes"?: When Sam asks if a fence named Cheater is still in business, his friend Tom replies "Is water still wet?"
  • Joisey: When Sam sees that a suspect in The Big Catnap has a New Jersey driver's license, he says the words "new" and "jersey" are the most disheartening words in the English language.
  • Kind Hearted Cat Lover:
    • Max the handyman Wrongfully Accused of the burglaries feeds the local cats often and plays hide and go seek with them. Even after being fired he feeds them on his way out.
    • In the second book, John Casey Jones' former pet Felix recalls that even when suffering from depression, John never abused him or forgot to feed him, and apologized for his aloofness and played with Felix every evening once that depression passed.
  • Masochist's Meal: The "Catslop" cat food is described as something that looks and tastes like a goat ate it and then retched it into the can. Even Sandy (the cat who does commercials for it) only pretends to eat the stuff.
  • Meaningful Name: The Evil Poacher who serves as The Dragon in The Maltese Kitten is named Hench.
  • Minion with an F in Evil: John Casey Jones in the second book. He only gets involved with kidnapping Sandy due to rightfully feeling cheated by his sister (Sandy's owner) and feeling money would win back his fiancé. Even then, he doesn't want to kidnap Sandy and tries to just fool his corrupting partner by snatching a stray cat, only to get the real Sandy by mistake. At the end of the book, he turns on his partner during a fight on the stage of the theatre where they work to save the cats.
  • Motive Misidentification: In The Big Catnap, Sam initially thinks that feline actor Sandy was kidnapped by the owner ofhis identical "understudy" Felix so Felix can take over Sandy's lucrative commercial gig. While Felix is an important character and his (past) owner isn't completely innocent, the kidnapping is being done strictly for ransom money and not to get Felix Sandy's job. Felix and Sandy are brothers whose original owner left them to her niece and nephew. Felix's former owner—his ex-fiancée currently has the cat—reluctantly got involved in an attempt to kidnap Sandy to get back at his sister for not sharing any of her monetary inheritance.
  • Nearly Normal Animal: Sam and the other cats are LNAs. They understand everything humans say and refer to humans as their roommates and/or employers. A cat who lives in a police station introduces himself as Officer Gomez, and Sam's friend Butch considers chasing mice at the supermarket to be a job. Some cats hire other cats to do jobs for food. Cats are capable of making phone calls to each other, reading, and typing emails. Shortly before The Big Catnap Sandy and Rosie have a church wedding, with another cat acting as the minister. In The Maltese Kitten, Butch talks about joining the Republican Party.
  • Noodle Incident: Sam has been a detective for years by the time the first book starts and makes vague references to some cases he's worked, and being owed a favor by Scratch that he cashes in.
  • Odd Name Out: The Flying Fangs (former circus cats) are named Wang, Chang, Drang and Strum. Interestingly, Strum is the only one who doesn't take part in the others attempts at making rap music, and seems to find the whole thing embarrassing.
  • Old Cop, Young Cop: The two policemen investigating the burglaries are a fat, gray-haired man and a rookie.
  • On One Condition: Prior to The Great Catsby, enthusiastic amateur musician JJ Smythington inherited billions from his uncle on the condition that he live in the countryside and host fundraisers for a charity foundation. Instead, JJ went on tour with a rock band and hired Ted Parker (Catsby's owner) to assume his identity while JJ uses Ted’s name. This lets JJ follow his musical dreams while Ted raises money for the worthy causes JJ’s uncle supported.
  • Political Overcorrectness: In the second book Sam meets a cat representing the Feline Rights Organization, which wants to change the name "cat" to Feline-Americans (due to words like cataract and cataclysm having cat in them) and call themselves animal companions instead of pets.
  • Refuge in Audacity: In the final book, Sam mails a letter revealing the culprit to the police and the newspapers and signs it "Sam the Cat Detective," knowing that only cats watching the news will realize it really was sent by a cat.
  • Role Called: Sam the Cat: Detective
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Prior to The Great Catsby, a local woman shot her rich husband and got away with claiming she’d mistaken him for a burglar because her sister was married to the sheriff.
  • The Shrink: In The Maltese Kitten, Sam talks with a psychiatrist's cat who fancies herself as a psychiatrist and the business partner of her owner due to how she "settles" nervous clients and leads private support groups of cats with anger issues and catnip addictions. She thinks that Sam is having delusions about being a detective and takes a while to answer his questions.
  • Standard Cop Backstory: Parodied a bit. Sam was born in a police precinct as a mascot and says he was involved in some cases before leaving and moving to the bookstore due to dissatisfaction with the bureaucrats around there.
  • Stealth Pun
  • Take a Third Option: A few years before The Great Catsby, J.J. Symington inherited a fortune from his uncle On One Condition (that he live a respectable life as a charity fundraiser), but he had different dreams and decided to pursue them. He hired another man to impersonate him and handle the charity fundraising.
    Catsby: What he really wanted to do was to play guitar in a hot band.
    Sam Instead of being a billionaire?
    Catsby: Did I say “instead of”?
    Sam: I take your point.
  • Taxidermy Is Creepy: In The Maltese Kitten, Sam is deeply unsettled by all of the stuffed or skinned endangered animals in Big Bad Casper Gutless's home.
  • Tranquilizer Dart: In The Maltese Kitten, Evil Poacher Herman Hench carries a dart gun that he uses to put multiple people and animals to sleep for several hours.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Sam develops a careful plan with the other cats to catch Quark (who will attack him in person, calling the police and screeching into the phone like a hurt child and then physically subduing the burglar) which isn't mentioned beforehand and works out perfectly.
  • Washy Watchy: Street cat Oscar watches the machines from the laundromat window as entertainment. He considers it to be as good as television and especially likes the Soaps. Later on he talks about a tv show he saw where the police just chased a guy in circles until they all fell down and is reminded that was the rinse cycle.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The Maltese Kitten to The Maltese Falcon, complete with the seemingly valuable kitten being replaced with a fake, although the Brigid and Cairo Expys aren't villains.
  • Writer's Block:
    • In The Maltese Kitten, John D. O'Shaughnessy struggles to get started on the sequel to his bestselling crime novel, mainly due to the stress of being threatened with eviction by his landlord.
    • In The Great Catsby, former goose columnist Rex Trout struggles to write a single sentence of his tell-all novel. Instead, Rex has been blackmailing people afraid he'll put them in the book, planning to run off with their money and the advance payment from his publisher.