Everything I've read by Carole Nelson Douglas has been both kind of sweet and not particularly original -- the kind of book that leaves you thinking, "Well, that was cute." This can either be marginally appealing, as in her Irene Adler series, or downright annoying, as in her attempts at high fantasy. _Catnap_ falls into the first category, as the author jumps on the feline sleuth bandwagon.
For those interested in the combination of cats and crime, I place the maunderings of Midnight Louie solidly between the interminable "Cat Who..." series and the delightful adventures of Mrs. Murphy. Louie plays a marginally more active role in crime solving than the Siamese Pair of the former, but is not quite so involved as the latter. Like Mrs. Murphy, he has a perky female associate to do the actual work of putting together clues and bringing them to the attention of the proper authorities. Unlike Mrs. Murphy, Louie seems a great deal more interested in self-agrandizement than in true crime solving. There is less of an emphasis on the legendary feline curiosity than there is on the equally legendary feline ego.
The setting is interesting as it gives a kind of perspective on Las Vegas as an alien culture. The supporting characters and subplots are derivative, and I thought the grand "revelation of the crime" scene, where the case was presented to all the suspects gathered in one room, was super unrealistic and annoying. Still, _Catnap_ kept me occupied on a grey afternoon when I couldn't think of anything better to do. If you don't go into it with very many expectations, you won't be disappointed.
As a series, the Midnight Louie books are standard for the genre and many are much more interesting and original than the first volume. The ongoing supporting cast is appealing, and the series-spanning subplots hooked me into reading past the first two books. Though the crimes and motives are fairly stock, some of the settings are quite original -- I especially liked the book set at a strippers' convention (_Pussyfoot_) and the one set at a Romance Novel convention (_Cat in a Diamond Dazzle). The series could use help from a continuity editor, however. In one book, a major event is stated to have happened both in 1969 and 1959; in others it seems that the author can't remember where one early crime happened, but sets it in this Vegas hotel or that as the whim takes her. Also, there are long sections dealing with the characters' "personal growth" that seem more like something from a psychology or self-help text than real conversations between people. And the characters have an annoying incapacity to use common contractions like "don't" or "won't," which makes much of the dialog seem stilted and unreal.
If you like gimick mysteries with a lot of fluff and not much suspense, you could do worse than the Midnight Louie books. Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers they're not, but they're still amusing.