Buckley and Bogey Cat Detective Capers – Book Reviews by Fred Patten
by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
The Case of the Cat Show Princess, by Cindy Vincent
Houston, TX, Whodunit Press, November 2011, trade paperback $9.97 (162 pages), Kindle $2.99.
The Case of the Crafty Christmas Crooks, by Cindy Vincent
Houston, TX, Whodunit Press, October 2013, trade paperback $9.97 (170 pages), Kindle $2.99.
The Case of the Jewel Covered Cat Statues, by Cindy Vincent
Houston, TX, Whodunit Press, September 2014, trade paperback $9.97 (242 pages), Kindle $2.99.
The Case of the Clever Secret Code, by Cindy Vincent
Houston, TX, Whodunit Press, October 2015, trade paperback $10.97 (222 pages), Kindle $2.99.
“Cat cozy” adult mystery series in which talking cats actively detect crimes have become very popular, though arguably more with cat-fanciers and some mystery fans (others revile them) than with furry fans. The Midnight Louie series by Carole Nelson Douglas, the Mrs. Murphy series by Rita Mae Brown, and the Joe Grey series by Shirley Rousseau Murphy have made cat-detective fantasies both popular and respectable. Here, then, is one for the kiddies that should also be called to furry fans’ attention, especially since it is not obvious on the Amazon.com listings that these are juvenile rather than adult novels.
These four Buckley and Bogey Cat Detective Capers by Cindy Vincent are attractive trade paperbacks published by Vincent’s own Whodunit Press, “A Division of Mysteries by Vincent, LLC”. They are talking-cat detective novels recommended for middle-grade readers, ages 8 to 12. Frankly, they are overly cute adventures mostly suitable for the younger end of that range, which is why I described them as for the kiddies rather than as for kids. As is typical with the most banal of this sub-sub-genre, all the cats can understand human language. In this series, they even regularly speak English as well, except when humans are listening.
“Of course, the humans aren’t exactly aware of our detective duties. Probably because us cats always switch to cat language whenever humans are around.” (The Case of the Clever Secret Code, p. 2)
All cats then “meow” intelligently together in feline, their secret language. Bogey reveals in The Case of the Clever Secret Code that he also knows the difference between written English, French, and Spanish. The cats work together to pull off the most blatant deeds that the humans never suspect are caused by cats. Ho, hum.
Buckley, the narrator, is a large black cat (a Maine Coon cat, which are traditionally dark; but I didn’t know were ever solid black until I saw photos of the real Buckley, owned by Cindy Vincent, on their website) who has been recently adopted from an animal shelter by cat lovers Abigail and Mike Abernathy and 12-year-old daughter Gracie. (“Dad” is supportive but almost ignored; he’s not even named until the third book.) They have a handful of rescued cats, one of whom is another black cat, the smaller but older Bogart. Bogey trains Buckley in detection and they set up the Buckley and Bogey Cat Detection Agency together — a detective agency for cats, not humans — using their human Mom and Dad’s home computer when they’re not looking. (A fine tradition in cat and dog fantasies going back to Elyse Cregar’s Feline Online and Beth Hilgartner’s Cats in Cyberspace, both 2001; though Hilgartner has pointed out in a 2015 edition that advances in computer technology and security since 2001 would make this difficult or impossible today.) Two other cats in the Abernathy home who always help Buckley and Bogey are Libby, usually called Lil Bits, and the ancient but almost supernaturally wise Miss Mokie. Bogey has an unlimited supply of cat treats for them all, especially Buckley.
In the first book, Buckley and Bogey receive an e-mail signed P.A. from “a cat in great danger” who will be at the local St. Gertrude Cat Show on the coming Saturday. Buckley and Bogey trick their humans into taking them there, and learn that P.A. is Princess Alexandra, a white Turkish Angora with a diamond collar and silken pillow owned by Count and Countess Von De Meenasnitzel of Austria. Despite the Princess’ luxurious lifestyle, the Count and Countess are cruel owners. The Princess is afraid for her life, and wants Buckley and Bogey to rescue her.
“I [Buckley] nodded to let her know I was listening. ‘The Count and Countess?’
‘Yes, yes,’ she sighed. ‘They’re mean to me all the time. They hit me if I don’t win a ribbon in the cat shows. They’re always threatening to do bad things if I don’t do what they say.’” (p. 56)
Do people who regularly exhibit their cats in cat shows habitually abuse them? Does anyone wonder about a Count and Countess coming from a country that has been a republic since 1919? To reveal a spoiler that will have been obvious to everyone all along, the Count and Countess are revealed by Buckley and Bogey to be international jewel thieves. The two cat detectives smuggle home Princess Alexandria, who is glad to give up her life of cold luxury for the warmth of the Abernathy’s cat-rescue home as just plain Lexie. This is not much of a spoiler since Lexie is shown with Buckley & Bogey on the covers of all four novels.
In the second book, Buckley experiences his first Christmas and learns all about Christmas trees, ornaments and presents, jingle bells, Santa Claus, Baby Jesus; and the true meaning of Christmas. The mystery is that someone has been entering houses in the Abernathy’s neighborhood and stealing all the Christmas loot:
“She [Officer Phoebe Smiley of the St. Gertrude Police Department] flipped a page in her notebook. ‘A crook – or – crooks broke into their house while they were out to the movies last night, which was Saturday night, of course. The crooks took everything. All the presents. They stole the wreath right off the front door, too. Mrs. Mitchell reports that they even took some of the Christmas cookies she’d made. Though oddly enough, they only stole the cookies shaped like stars. They left all the other shapes alone.’” (p. 8)
Although Buckley and Bogey are mystified until the climax, there are clues throughout the story that will let adult readers but maybe not the younger 8-to-12-year-olds guess early whodunit. The third book is about a mysterious wrapped package added on a foggy night to Mom Abernathy’s Abigail’s Antiques shop:
“Our Mom punched the alarm code into the alarm keypad by the back door. Then Officer Phoebe opened the door and we all went outside.
Straight into the thickest fog I’d ever seen.
Our Mom opened the door to the truck and that’s when we heard it.
I glanced back at Bogey. ‘What was that?’ I meowed.
Like I said, cats always switch back to cat language when humans are around.
Before Bogey could answer, our Mom asked, ‘Is that a foghorn?’
Officer Phoebe squinted and looked into the fog. ‘It sure sounds like it. But that’s weird. Last I knew, St. Gertrude didn’t have any foghorns. We’re nowhere near the ocean.’
Then we heard it again. Baaaaaaaa-room! Baaaaaaaa-room!
All of a sudden I shivered. If our town didn’t have any foghorns, then why were we hearing a foghorn now? Somebody was making that foghorn go.” (p. 36)
The Case of the Jewel Covered Cat Statues is about two missing priceless jeweled cat statues, and a parade of characters, all with suspiciously alliterative names like Abe Abascal, Byron B. Bygones, Danby Daunton, and Evaline Esterbrook, or unconvincing names like Vera Glitter and Delilah Wonderfully (a wanna-be Cruella DeVil), mixed up with the mysterious package.
The fourth novel, The Case of the Clever Secret Code, is the least convincing of all – at least to adults, and probably to young readers as well. (Were we ever that naïve?) Steele Bronson, a Hollywood mega-star, comes to St. Gertrude and Abigail’s Antiques shop in his limousine, with all his entourage of makeup artists, stunt men, scriptwriters, and other assistants:
Then he stood up tall and looked at the reporter. ‘You might want to get this on film,’ he informed her.
Once the camera was on, he held his arms open wide and addressed the crowd. ‘Yes, ladies and gentlemen! I, Steele Bronson, have come here, into the very heart of America. Now I intend to make a movie about the very foundation of this great nation of ours. Yes, I plan to thrill audiences with a story about the very beginnings of these United States. It will be about the Revolutionary War and those brave persons who fought to make us independent. And I intend to film what will obviously become a blockbuster, right here in St. Gertrude.’” (pgs. 22-23)
Bogey gets a very bad feeling about all this – and so does the reader! Do real Hollywood movie stars ever talk like that? Do even eight-year-olds believe that this is the way that movies are made? That famous movie stars just decide to make a movie (that they will star in, of course) and announce it, without any preparation, or other actors, or a studio being involved? In this novel, Bogey and other cats are aware that this sounds fishy, but none of the humans seem to be. Holy Catnip!
According to the website’s advertising, the first three novels were planned together. It was only after they were successful (whatever that means since Vincent is publishing them herself) that the fourth novel was added. There will probably be more, then.
And so it goes. Bogey is acknowledgely modeled after Humphrey Bogart as P.I. Sam Spade in Warner Bros.’ famous movie of Dashiell Hammett’s mystery novel The Maltese Falcon. Buckley, despite being larger, is the wide-eyed apprentice who hero-worships his cynical-but-kindly mentor. I could do without Buckley constantly exclaiming both “Holy Catnip!” and “Holy Mackerel!”, including at the beginning and ending of each chapter; constantly almost putting his own eye out, tripping over his oversized, furry Maine Coon paws, or otherwise displaying his clumsiness (“‘I tried to put my paw to my forehead, to help me think better. But I ended up bonking myself in my whiskers.’” –The Case of the Crafty Christmas Crooks, p. 64); and to the blurbs’ calling each novel “their most complicated ever!” or “their most difficult yet!”. I’m not sure why both Bogey and Buckley share the last name of Bergdorf, despite being adoptive brothers. It’s common in pet fantasies for the pets to adopt the family name of their human Dad and Mom, but the two Bergdorfs belong to the human Abernathys. The “Berg” in Bergdorf has been theorized by some reviewers to be a reference to Ingrid Bergman in the movie Casablanca; another starring role of Humphrey Bogart’s tough-guy persona. Nobody has guessed whether “dorf” is also a reference, and if it is, I don’t recognize it, either. Cindy Vincent is an active Christian author (one of her other books is Cats are Part of His Kingdom, Too: 33 Daily Devotions to Show God’s Love); and the Buckley and Bogey books often show religious imagery. Their cover art is obviously by the same designer as the Mysteries by Vincent website; Cindy Vincent herself?
Holy Catfish! The Buckley and Bogey Cat Detective Capers have some glowing reviews, but they all read like they were written by cat-lovers for whom no talking-cat book can be too cute. These are obviously fantasies written for young children who are not expected to believe that they are real. Yet major plot elements presented plausibly include cat show exhibitors who regularly abuse their pets, with none of the humans noticing anything wrong; the titled nobility in present-day Austria; the police being always clueless until the cats send them mystery e-mails explaining just how the criminals operate; and a town just being taken over by a major Hollywood star who decides on a whim (he says) to make it the location of his next big picture.
There are better anthropomorphic talking-animal fantasies for this age group, which I would put at closer to 6- to 10-years-old than 8-to-12s. Holy Mackerel!
- Buy The Case of the Cat Show Princess on Amazon
- Buy The Case of the Crafty Christmas Crooks on Amazon
- Buy The Case of the Jewel Covered Cat Statues on Amazon
- Buy The Case of the Clever Secret Code on Amazon
- Learn more about Cindy Vincent on her website
- Learn more about Buckley and Bogey on their website