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.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Stitches, In Between, and Breathless

1/1/10 It’s a New Year – and time to experiment! Here’s a quick look at a few recent releases that don’t fit into your usual categories.

Stitches: A Memoir by David Small (Norton, $24.95) is not your average book, despite looking like one from the outside. After all, it’s got a dustjacket, it’s published by a major press and seems to be just another gritty memoir if you believe the book’s inside flap. Once you open it up – you enter the world of the graphic novel. For the uninitiated, that doesn’t mean it’s full of dirty words. The entire book consists of detailed black and white drawings, word balloons and subtext that relates Small’s experiences growing up in Detroit in the 1950’s.

Small’s family was more than a little eccentric. The award-winning children’s illustrator explores a variety of unusual situations, including the title vignette, where the teen-ager survives unusual medical procedures that will alter his life drastically. Stitches is an amazing, mesmerizing memoir that well deserves its selection as one of Michigan’s Notable Books of the year.

In Between by fantasy author R.A. MacAvoy
(Subterranean, $35) is more of a novelette, coming in at just under 100 pages. It explores strange happenings in the life of Ewen Young, a talented artist. He’s attacked by three Chinese thugs after leaving an art show; they want to send a message to Ewen’s Uncle Jimmy, who owes a major gambling debt. Soon, his relative is killed; Ewen is severely injured, but comes back from the dead, being in an “in-between” state for a while.

MacAvoy offers a satisfying conclusion to an unusual tale; the limited
edition book is autographed and features a wonderful cover art by Maurizio Manzieri.

Breathless by best-selling writer Dean Koontz
(Bantam, $28) is a bizarre but somewhat perplexing tale. Even loyal fans are likely to be puzzled about where the plot is really headed. Characters include a veteran with his trusty Irish wolfhound, a dedicated veterinarian, a scheming survivalist, a chaos theory expert, an experienced hit man, a devious lawyer and a huge homeless man. Throw in a pair of frolicking, likable glowing life forms – and you’ve got the usual, unusual Koontz book. It’s an intriguing, fast-paced tale with a few surprises and a touch of inspiration thrown in for good measure.

Ray Walsh
This review also appeared in the
Lansing State Journal on Sunday, January 1, 2010


Monday, February 8, 2010

New Website and Blog

The Curious Book Shop is pleased to announce that its new website and online journal are up and running!

The official website, at http://www.curiousbooks.com/, has a new design and new content. Visit today for information, printable coupons, and a look at some of our more interesting items in stock.

This journal will serve as a space for website updates, shop news, announcements, and books reviews by the owner of the Curious Book Shop, Ray Walsh. Continue to check back for the latest goings-on in Curious Book News.