Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thereby Hangs a Tail and How to Wash a Cat

2/14/10 Dogs and cats are featured prominently in a pair of recent crime novels with varying success. One showcases a clever dog while the other utilizes a pair of cats to help solve a mystery.

Thereby Hangs a Tail by Spencer Quinn (Atrium, $25) is the sequel to the highly acclaimed, best-selling novel Dog On It, which introduced Chet, a 100-pound mongrel who flunked out of K-9 School.

Told from the dog's occasionally wandering viewpoint, this funny tale again focuses on his partnership with his owner, private eye Bernie Little, as they investigate threats made against Princess, a pampered dog show winner.

Princess and her owner are abducted; suddenly, the case turns more serious. They check out possible suspects when Bernie's sort-of girlfriend, reporter Susie Sanchez, also turns up missing.

Bernie, an ex-cop, has other problems as he's trying to raise money to pay alimony, child support and a debt to the IRS. It's no romp in the park for Chet either, as he gets separated from Bernie and must fend for himself while trying to reunite with his master.

There's strong characterization and Chet's narration rings true, offering a nifty whiff of entertainment for dog-loving mystery fans.
Unfortunately, the same appreciation is not likely to occur from feline lovers for How to Wash a Cat by Rebecca M. Hale (Berkley Prime Crime, $6.99).

This debut paperback novel features an attractive cover design and an interesting initial premise with a great locale in San Francisco.

This unlikely tale is told from the viewpoint of a woman who inherits The Green Vase, an antique shop, from her Uncle Oscar, whose dead body is
discovered on its floor.

The new owner loses her job as an accountant and decides to move into the cluttered upstairs apartment. As she takes over, she and her cats make
many discoveries, including a secret trap door that may hold hidden secrets that date back to days of the gold rush.

It gets a lot more complicated, with a determined, clever villain and assorted schemes. Quirky, obnoxious characters abound, yet the main
character isn't all that fully developed.

It's challenging for the reader to relate to a narrator who isn't clearly identified until the book's last chapter.

Ray Walsh
This review also appeared in the
Lansing State Journal on February 14, 2010.

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