Kat Colorado

Created by Karen Kijewski

According to the publisher’s blurb on her debut, Katwalk (1988), Sacramento, California’s KAT COLORADO is a “wise-cracking, thirty-something California bartender-turned-P.I., a curious cat with nine lives… and a passion for pushing the scales of justice in the right direction.”

I don’t know about the passion for justice, but the spunky thirty-something certainly sticks up for her overly-extended family of friends and acquaintances, including best bud Charity, an advice columnist, and Kat’s main squeeze Hank, a detective on the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police. Much is made of Kat’s hard times as a kid (an alcoholic mom, never knew her dad, tragic death of her beloved kid sister, etc.) and her background in journalism and bartending in the first book, but they’re barely mentioned in the second. She doesn’t like, or even own, high heels, but she has a definite thing for (male) chest hair, as well as several other little quirks, all no doubt intended to make her appealing.

I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it.

I know, I know… 1988’s Katwalk won a slew of awards, including the 1988 SMP/PWA Best First P.I. Novel Contest, a Shamus for Best First Novel and an Anthony for Best First Mystery, and each installment in the series routinely garnered favourable reviews. It never impressed me much, however — it just felt generic and pre-fab to me, and the naming convention of the series (each title features the word “Kat” in the title) was too cute by half. It didn’t help that — what with the emphasis placed so often on her countless friends and various dramatic relationships — that the series often came off as an extended soap opera, rather than a mystery series.

What really bugs me, though, is that Kat isn’t even particularly good at her job. In fact, she often comes off as downright stupid, walking right into obvious traps and getting the snot beat out of her in each of the books I’ve read. And to make matters worse, she leans on her beloved cop boyfriend Hank too much. Who’s the hero here, anyway?

The well-deserved critical and commercial success in the eighties of Kinsey Millhone and V.I. Warshawski  opened the door for a lot of women writers writing female private eyes — and that was a good thing. But it didn’t mean that everything that fit the formula should have been published. My guess is that Kijewsli hit just the right spot at just the right time, and proved that women could write private eye books just as lame, derivative and cliched as their male counterparts. Progress of a sort, I guess.

UNDER OATH

  • “Kijewski enlivens the private eve genre without ever slowing its pace.”
    — Booklist

NOVELS

SHORT STORIES

  • “Katfall” (1990, Sisters in Crime 3)
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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