When Mary Stewart died recently, I looked over her bibliography, and I noticed a book that I had never read. It was Touch Not the Cat. The book was published in 1976. Most of her romantic suspense books were written in the 1950s and 60s, and they were the cream of the crop, in my opinion. Touch Not the Cat has a supernatural feel to it, with Byrony Ashley having a telepathic connection to someone that she grows to refer to as her lover. It seems that the Ashleys have a history of family members having a psychic connection to others in the family. So Byrony believes that her lover is one of her three male cousins. The two elder are twins, Emory and James, and the younger is Francis. Byrony isn't sure who she has the connection with, but her lover contacts her one night while she is in Maderia to let her know that her father is in serious trouble. It turns out that he has been hit by a car while at a German convalescent hospital. Before Byrony can reach her father, he has died. He did leave her a cryptic message about William's Brooke, hidden letters, and warning Byrony to beware. With his death, the Ashley estate skips Byrony and passes to the next male heirs, Byrony's ailing uncle and her cousin, Emory. Byrony still has a say, however, because the estate is bound in a trust, which states that all family members must agree to the sale of land or possessions. Byrony's father personally owned a cottage and some land on the estate, and these pass to Byrony. When Byrony goes back to the estate to spread her father's ashes, she notices that some valuable smaller pieces are missing from the estate. Were they taken by tourists on guided tour of the estate, or the rich Underhills who are renting the estate for a year? Or was one of her cousins? And who is her mysterious lover? Byrony's emotions are confused, and she turns to local farm hand Rob, as a listening ear.
The story was interesting, but I found myself wanting to grab Byrony and shake her. She puts herself into dangerous situations because she trusts her relatives too much, even when it seems that they may have criminal intent. Touch Not the Cat is not one of my favorite Stewart novels. It's a decent romantic suspense, but it's not as satisfying as the early Stewart novels.