Cat’s Cradle

Written by Julia Golding
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley

1792. Cat Royal, of the Theatre Royal, London, embarks on her seventh adventure. A mysterious letter has arrived from a Mrs Moir from New Lanark in Scotland, purporting to know about Cat’s parentage. Cat is suspicious but she still yearns to know the truth. Is Mrs Moir her mother? She decides to track Mrs Moir down and do some investigations before she meets her. Her new friend, Bridgit O’Riley, who has her own reasons for wanting to leave London, agrees to accompany her.

Richard Arkwright’s revolutionary cotton mills at New Lanark are one of the wonders of the age. Famous for their innovative machinery, they also demonstrate Arkwright’s determination to improve his workers’ lives with decent housing, proper sanitation and schools. Cat and Bridgit decide to seek work there and see what they can find out.

But there are unexpected problems. Cat encounters prejudice against her as a ‘sassenach’, a southerner. Then she learns of a half-brother, Rabbie Bruce, who is a cattle-thief. And the Bruces don’t take kindly to strangers.

The problem with Cat’s Cradle is that it doesn’t really stand alone. The first hundred or so pages are spent introducing characters from the previous books who tell each other what’s happened in the past. We meet a number of people, like Cat’s arch-enemy, the crime lord Billy Shepherd; her mentor, the playwright Richard Sheridan; her old friend Frank, a.k.a. the earl of Arden, and so on, who all have a scene or two and then vanish from the story – or reappear at the end like a deus ex machina.

It feels as if the author is either marking time or has run out of steam. Still, I’m sure that those who are already fans will enjoy Cat’s new adventure, even if it takes a while to get going. For 10+.