Book: Cat’s Eyewitness

OK, here I am with another book with [tag]cats[/tag] in it, and another one in a series I’ve already written some about, a [tag]Mrs. Murphy Mystery[/tag]. My most recent entry was on reading The Tail of the Tip-Off, which I rated a 4. [tag]Rita Mae Brown[/tag] and [tag]Sneaky Pie Brown[/tag] are just too good not to keep on reading.

I’m getting into more contemporary times with “Harry” Harristeen now having resigned from the post office, and wondering what to do next. The kind of touch and go romance between her and Fair continues, as do her friendly collisions with the sheriff who thinks she’s going to get herself killed. As usual, by listening to their fellow creatures, the animals get ahead of the game and let the reader in on the action just a bit ahead of time.

In this case I suspected, but did not know who was actually responsible, and I missed a key point of evidence that would have confirmed the bad guy to me. The clues are all there if you read carefully and don’t assume anything that isn’t explicitly stated.

The mystery centers around a monastery, which seems an unusual setting for a murder mystery, but it turns out that the brothers are people too, with all of the potential for trouble that means in their lives. The story comes complete with a weeping statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary!

As it says on the cover, “it takes a cat to write the purr-fect mystery”–excessively cute, yes, but true and forgiven.

Again, my rating is a 4 out of 5.

Book: The Cat’s Pajamas

From a book I liked, I turn to a book that I didn’t. This was my first book by Gilbert Morris, and I had high hopes because there is a silhouette of a cat on the cover, and it says it’s “a feline mystery by Gilbert Morris. Further I quickly discovered that it’s a Christian book, and I like to find good Christian fiction.

To start out with, there was very little feline mystery involved. I’ve encountered books in which the cats were present as characters, but weren’t consciously contributing to the solution of the mystery, though they might do so accidentally. Other books have the cats talk and actively and consciously work to solve the mystery. Suspension of disbelief is then the name of the game. This is the first time I’ve encountered felines in the story who were apparently conscious and discussing the situation, but were nonetheless largely irrelevant. It’s a story, and there are cats, but the cats are barely in the story.

Then there’s the Christian angle. I like a book in which Christian characters live out Christian principles and confess that they’re Christians while living a Christian life. I dislike recognizing the clear “conversion target” in the first chapter. And I didn’t do that in this book, because he didn’t “get converted” in the book, but he is working on it. Not only that, there are several more that everyone is working on. There are Hollywood types who are totally amoral, or perhaps immoral, which the author informs us through a character, is worse. There are corrupt small town politicians.

In general there’s an implausible background (and note that I live very near the scene of the action), very few clues provided for a solution of the mystery, and then suddenly the cat pulls out something that . . . solves the mystery entirely without any need for further detective work. That’s it. Basically everyone flails around until someone finds the one thing that totally solves the mystery, even without any other clues.

To put it bluntly, I haven’t disliked a book this much in a long time. I’ll rate it 2 out of 5, because I did finish reading it, though I was tempted to quit. Gilbert Morris is a bestselling author, so I assume my dislike is my own idiosyncrasy, but there it is!

Book: The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers

One shouldn’t really complain about how much mystery there is in this series, since it’s pure, light fun all the way, but it does seem that we’re getting more and more personality and less and less mystery even within that formula. It’s also too soon for me to be writing notes on another book in this series, but it showed up at the library, so here goes.

Basically these are still light bedtime reading, and as such they work for me, but earlier books had much greater suspense and mystery, while the last couple have tended to slow down. At this point, I read just because I like the characters and the setting and I can manage the light reading time to keep up with their lives, but it would be nice to see Qwill and Koko in a bit more trouble, the kind of trouble that I might have to wonder how they’d get out of.

In any case, we have good characters, we have cats, and we have good background, so I’ll go on reading. Much of what I wrote about The Cat Who Dropped a Bombshell still applies, so having done my complaining, it’s on to the next book.

Book: The Tail of the Tip-Off

I previously wrote about Claws and Effect, and though I’ve read a couple of other books in this series I hadn’t posted anything about them. So I thought I’d write a few notes on another in this series.

I want to warn you right off that this is a series in which the animals can talk, or perhaps better communicate with one another, even carrying on fairly sophisticated conversations. The humans (stupid us!) can’t understand them, though they can understand the humans. Some folks don’t like this sort of thing. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief that much, especially since the animals generally behave appropriately for their species.

We’re again in Crozet, Virginia (where else?) and someone has died in a very mysterious way. I found pretty much all aspects of the murder better than the average for this series. The method is intriguing and the motivation works for me.

I always enjoy the assortment of small town characters, and I don’t suppose I’ve mentioned more than a dozen times or so in various entries on this blog that I am a major pushover for books featuring cats. The main dog character is not bad either, but I have a soft spot for cats.

The ever curious Mary Minor “Harry” Harristeen is up to all her usual antics, regularly getting herself in considerable trouble. She always show so much more intelligence in finding clues than in comprehending the fact that some people may not be too happy she’s trailing them.

This is another light reading book; excellent mystery, but generally not requiring you to be in study mode when you read it.

Numerical rating: 4.

Book: The Cat Who Dropped a Bombshell

Somehow because I use a bunch of long words and write on weird theological topics, people sometimes expect me to like only “serious” books on “serious” topics. Nothing could be further from the truth. I like fun and humor. I’m reading nearly constantly, and I like books that I can pick up when I’m really tired of thinking books and just want to relax with a story.

Lillian Jackson Braun and her Cat Who series is a perfect fit for such times. I noticed recently that I’d never written anything on this blog about her books, and that’s a truly sad thing. I just completed The Cat Who Dropped a Bombshell (Cat Who…) and I enjoyed it as I have so many previous books in this series. The humor is delightful. Cats are always fun. Koko rules!

I just love a fast moving, friendly tale in which I don’t have to wade through incredible evil, or pick through really obscure lists of suspects, or spend my time longing for a character to like. This book is filled with sympathetic characters. There are a few bad guys, and generally they “get theirs.” All’s well that ends well, and this whole series of books manages to do that every time.

Braun doesn’t present us with talking cats (though I don’t mind that sort of thing). She always leaves one wondering just how much KoKo has actually done. But the cat lovers will all be aware that Koko is a true genius, and truly the world 400 miles north of everything would be in much worse shape without his wisdom.

So grab one of these volumes at the bookstore or library and relax a bit. It won’t hurt you!

Book: Raining Cats and Dogs

I’ve been missing in action for a couple of weeks, as I was finishing a manuscript (non-fiction, When People Speak for God), but I haven’t quit reading.

I just completed Laurien Berenson’s Raining Cats and Dogs, a Melanie Travis Mystery. I picked up the book because it has to do with animals though I didn’t look all that carefully at the details. I do like to pick up books I have never heard of and just check them out.

What I got was some good relaxing evening reading. The dogs in this mystery don’t solve crimes or do anything other than just be dogs. Now I’m not much of a dog person. I’d prefer if it was cats hanging around being cats. There are a certain number (large to no-cat-people) of cats involved, causing a certain amount of feline trouble, but the dogs are stars.

The mystery seems to me to play out a bit in the background which is also not my preference. Melanie Travis is a detective more by accident than intent, which changes the way she operates. Nonetheless, the story line itself is interesting. The suspense is light. We are not made to feel that another crime is around the corner or that great evil is lurking. In fact, such evil as there is seems very human.

I rate this a 3 of 5. (I remind readers of the explanation for my ratings. One or two people seem to have felt that 3 was a negative rating, when in fact the bulk of my reading is works that I rate as a 3.)

Book: A Ruinous Wind

I looked back at previous notes and found a brief note in this general post in which I am not too excited about Pilkington after reading a previous work, The Maiden Bell. I did indicate that I would probably read something else by the same author, but wasn’t in a hurry. Now I have, and I enjoyed it a great deal. I would call it a four, rather than the three I gave the previous book, and I can’t actually see the difference. I just must have been in a different mood when I read this one.

Thomas the Falconer is an interesting character, a very intelligent person stuck in a hierarchical society as a commoner. He manages to do well under those circumstances and he has a good, honest employer/lord who provides him with the freedom to do what he needs. He would prefer just taking care of the hawks, but he ends up spending a good deal of time solving mysteries.

In this story, he is thrust into a situation in which both he and his lord are in great danger. A very violent murderer is on the loose, and it is almost impossible to discover his motives or where he will strike next. I was surprised by the finish, which is one criteria I have for enjoying a novel. I don’t mind figuring out who the guilty party is early provided I feel clever when I do it. If it’s obvious and just falls into my lap it tends to annoy me.

In any case, the solution doesn’t come till the end and there are plenty of moments of action and suspense between. Reading A Ruinous Wind makes me more anxious to find more John Pilkington mysteries.

Book: In the Presence of the Enemy

A couple of days ago I blogged about discovering Elizabeth George’s collection of short stories, I, Richard, and how much I appreciated those stories.

At the same time I checked out her book In the Presence of the Enemy. Now those of you who pay attention to the reading I choose here will note that I tend a bit toward active material and often shorter works, despite the fact that I do like good characterization, which is often what is lost in such books. In this case, the book is longer (535 pp.) and not nearly as light. There is good action, but there are also long sections devoted to developing the character, even the character of the murder victim. This book is in a different category from many mysteries that I read. It has more characteristics of a serious novel. At the same time I enjoyed it, though it won’t replace the kind of light reading I like to rest my mind after a hard day’s work writing or editing.

The mystery element is also excellent. I must confess that I wondered briefly about the character who is actually guilty, but had dismissed that person for various reasons and thus was surprised by the ending. I had reasons to believe that each one of the possibilities were not the right one. I do like to be surprised. There are clues to the right character for those who read more attentively than I did. Thinking back I was able to see where I should have become suspicious.

I particularly liked the development of the moral character. Two key people, Dennis Luxford, a journalist of an amoral, circulation building variety, and Eve Bowen, an MP of the ambitious variety have to face who they are and what they have done in their lives. I felt that the process in each case was quite believable and human, and provided plenty to think about.

This is definitely a 4 star book for me!

Book: I, Richard

At the library I noticed books by Elizabeth George for the first time. It’s not entirely surprising that I haven’t seen her material before, since I tend to work rather unadventuresomely from material I’m familiar with. I picked up a novel, which I am currently reading, and a collection of short stories, I, Richard. The title of the book comes from the title of the final story, which is a fine piece of writing.

I like the short story form, and this material is exquisite. I enjoyed every one. The settings vary somewhat, from England, to New England, to California. We join a study group in England learning about architecture (Exposure), a very eccentric neighbor (Good Fences Aren’t Always Enough), a very nearly (not so) perfect murder (The Surprise of his Life), a very shocking reason to tell someone you love them (Remember, I’ll Always Love You), and finally there is the fine tale of a man who just wants to finally exonerate Richard III of the crime of killing the princes (I, Richard). The lengths he’ll go to accomplish that may surprise you.

This is an excellent collection, and I’m glad it was my start in reading Elizabeth George.

Two Books from Familiar Authors

It’s been my goal to post on this blog 2-3 times per week, with either something original or a translation included weekly. Obviously, I have failed to meet that target by quite a margin. I don’t want to post an entry for every book by authors about whom I’ve blogged before, however, so here I will just mention two that I’ve read recently.

The first is yet another J. D. Robb book, Portrait in Death, which didn’t change my option of J. D. Robb as a fiction writer. I still enjoy her work for light reading, and after long days in front of the typewriter, I’m looking for something that’s fun, flows well, and yet interesting enough. Robb’s Eve Dallas books fill that niche just fine for me. In this case, the story is about a person who combines art and murder in a somewhat unusual way. It’s good reading.

The second is an older book by J. A. Jance, Name Withheld, a J. P. Beaumont mystery. Jance is one of my favorites in the mystery area, though I generally read her books in the same mental state as I pick up Robb’s. In other words, I don’t want to be seriously intellectually challenged, but I want a fun mystery with good characters, and a solution that isn’t too obvious. They both work out well on that count.

I’m continuing my reading with an author who is new to me, Elizabeth George. I will write about one of her books in a separate entry, and I’m also reading a novel that I’ll write about later.

Note also that the little Amazon link to the right now cycles through about ten books that are either on my immediate future list (it’s on my shelf ready) and my most recent reading.