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Tag: mystery

Inhuman Acts: A Collection of Noir – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

51i6Fzbl+wL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Inhuman Acts; A Collection of Noir, edited by Ocean Tigrox.
Dallas, TX, FurPlanet Productions, September 2015, trade paperback $19.95 (316 pages), Kindle $9.95.

According to the publisher, this is a horror anthology. “Explore thirteen anthropomorphic noir stories about betrayal, corruption and deceit from award-winning authors and up-and-coming writers. Pour your favourite whiskey and light up a cigarette as Stanley Rivets, PI shares with you his collection of case files from dim to dark to downright ugly.” (blurb)

Stanley Rivets, the stereotypical sable P.I. who tells these stories — “A sable in a long beige trench coat sits behind the desk, dark ears perking at the entrance of the newcomer. The wide brim of his fedora raises to see what visitor would stop by this late at night.” –p. vii. He wears his trench coat and fedora while sitting in his office? Well, maybe he’s just returned, exhausted, from a case — appears only in the very brief Foreword and Afterword. Too bad. It would have been nice to get a full story with him.

Rivets tells 13 stories; not cases of his own, but 13 that he’s heard of. Ocean Tigrox has started out with one of the best here; “Muskrat Blues” by Ianus Wolf. It’s specifically a pastiche of The Maltese Falcon, with Mike Harrison, a pig P.I., investigating the murder of his best friend, another P.I. – a muskrat; two prey animals in a grim & gritty city where the prey animals are usually at the bottom of the anthro-animal social pole. But Alex Richards didn’t take any guff, and neither does Harrison. Wolf packs a neat summary of Hammett’s novel (or Warner Bros.’s movie; take your pick) into a taut 25 pages of noir, with enough originality that even if you’re a fan of The Maltese Falcon, you’re not likely to guess whodunit. And enough presence of predator & prey animal traits to make this a satisfying furry story, too.

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Cat Crimebusters and Other P.I.s On Paws, Part 2 – Book Reviews By Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Part 1 can be found here.

wish you were hereThe Mrs. Murphy series by Rita Mae Brown is another animal crime series where the animals actively detect, rather than just tag along with the human amateur detective while she (it’s invariably a woman) solves the mystery. The Mrs. Murphy books, officially in collaboration between Rita Mae Brown and her tiger cat, Sneaky Pie Brown, are up to 24 novels. The next is coming in May 2016.

Wish You Were Here. November 1990.

Rest in Pieces. June 1993.

Murder at Monticello. November 1994.

Pay Dirt. November 1995. Read the rest of this entry »

James, the Connoisseur Cat and James, Fabulous Feline – Book reviews by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

51UHJFFcUML._AC_UL320_SR226,320_James, the Connoisseur Cat, by Harriet Hahn.
NYC, St. Martin’s Press, October 1991, hardcover $13.95 (169 pages).

James, Fabulous Feline: Further Adventures of a Connoisseur Cat, by Harriet Hahn.
NYC, St. Martin’s Press, June 1993, hardcover $14.95 (199 pages).

This two-book set presents a whimsical set of adventures of a very British cat, more aristocratic than James-Bondian.

“I spend a lot of my time in England,” begins the nameless narrator, a traveling art expert. “My apartment in Baron’s Chambers, on Ryder Street, is my headquarters.”


“I felt wonderfully at home, and then I noticed something new. Sitting on the small table where one usually finds messages and brochures describing current exhibits and events sat what appeared at first glance to be a big, gray, short-haired cat. It was motionless and its eyes were closed, but even so, I felt the power of a rare personality.” (p. 1)

James never does talk, but he makes his feelings plain through pantomime, especially to the narrator.

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Cat Crimebusters and Other P.I.’s on Paws – Book Review By Fred Patten

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

31Ys21veVpLI have written lots of reviews of French talking-animal comic books. It’s time to also cover talking-animals in text in the mystery/detective novel field. Here is a profile of one of the oldest series of all; the Midnight Louie novels by Carole Nelson Douglas. Future articles will present other cat crimebusters, dog detectives (mostly the Chet and Bernie series by Spencer Quinn), and a whole slew of German animal sleuths from Akif Pirinçci’s brutal Felidae novels to Moritz Matthies’ “ultra-cool” novels about meerkat detectives who sneak out of the Berlin Zoo to investigate animal murders.

This is a sort-of milestone in the annals of the cat crimebusters. By that, I mean the feline murder mysteries that have been so popular among mystery fans for the past three decades. And I don’t mean all the “cat cozies” in which an unanthropomorphized pet cat tags along with the human amateur detective while she solves the crime. I mean those in which the cat is the real detective – and usually the narrator – finding the clues, and surreptitiously batting them out for the human amateur detective or the police to find.

The milestone is the almost-conclusion after two and a half decades of Carole Nelson Douglas’ Midnight Louie alphabet series. She has been writing one or two a year in alphabetical order for over twenty-six years. This year, in 2015, she has reached the end of the alphabet with Cat in a Zebra Zoot Suit, published on August 24. Temple Barr is a young publicist in colorful Las Vegas living in a rundown but exotic apartment house. She is “adopted” by Midnight Louie, a stray slightly-overweight black cat (about 20 pounds) who moves in. While Louie detects for the animals, the main crimes are human that Temple has to solve. Louie surreptitiously helps. There are Temple Barr, the Las Vegas publicity agent who is Louie’s apparent owner and unsuspecting cover for his detecting – Max Kinsella and Matt Devine, Temple’s two lovers – Carmen Molina, the hard-as-nails Las Vegas female police detective who gives Temple and Louie a hard time – Electra Lark, Temple’s elderly Circle Ritz apartment-house manager, and Van von Rhine, owner of Vegas’ high-end Crystal Phoenix hotel, Temple’s main client – Louie’s Midnight Investigations, Inc., later expanded into his Vegas Cat Pack assistants including Midnight Louise, his (probable) daughter, and Ma Barker, his mother – and too many to list here. Next year the 28th novel in the series, Cat in an Alphabet Endgame, will wrap it all up. (Though Douglas has promised that Louie will go on to new adventures.)

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Who Killed Kathleen Gingers?, by Gary Akins – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Who Killed Kathleen Gingers?, by Gary Akins. Revised edition. Illustrated.
Austin, TX, Furry Logic Productions, February 2010, trade paperback $15.00 (136 pages).

AC01--Who_Killed_Kathleen_Gingers_[cover] (1)For those who object to funny-animal fiction – stories in which there is no reason for the characters to be anthropomorphic animals instead of regular humans – Who Killed Kathleen Gingers? can be easily skipped. For those who don’t mind it as long as the story is well-written, and who like crime noir murder mysteries in the Sam Spade/Philip Marlowe/Shell Scott/Travis McGee tradition, don’t miss Who Killed Kathleen Gingers?

Calico Rock sheriff’s office detective Allan Connell (ferret) is sent to investigate the reported murder of vivacious Hollywood star Kathleen Gingers (mouse) at her palatial Pacific Beach vacation home. When Gingers herself answers the door, it looks like the report was a prank – until Connell and Gingers find a real body, that of Gingers’ murdered private secretary, who looks very much like her.

Whodunit, and why? Does the popular Gingers have enemies? Or did the bland secretary, who was recently hired with nothing much really known about her? Was the secretary killed by mistake for Gingers, and is Gingers still in danger? Connell is faced with the crime noir detective’s usual comic-relief (but not totally incompetent) assistant, mysterious clues, and lots of suspects: an unconvincingly indignant husband, an overly-jealous wife, a too-affable producer and his hysterical associate who is very eager to accuse a particular suspect, a sultry mistress with a secret, the vengeful father of a long-dead friend …

Akins writes the right crime noir prose:

“The ocelot-fem was lying face-down on a beach towel by the edge of the pool, head cradled in her arms, sunning herself. She was sleek and well-toned, with graceful legs that went from firm, muscular thighs down to slender ankles and feet. The black and silver of the bikini pants made a nice contrast against her black-spotted, golden-yellow fur, and as near as I could tell that was about their only real contribution since the cut of the cloth left an extremely generous portion of each shapely buttock exposed to view. Her tail lay mostly limp along one leg, the tip twitching slowly every so often. Her fur had been carefully brushed and combed to a healthy, appealing luster, and I just stood there for a moment, appreciating the overall view of her.” (p. 39)

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Cat Out of Hell, by Lynne Truss – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Cat Out of Hell, by Lynne Truss.
London, Hammer Books, March 2014, hardcover £9.99 (233 pages), Kindle £4.31.

British cover

British cover

As usual, this review lists the first, British, edition. American readers will find it easier to get one of the American editions (Melville House, March 2015).

An unnamed narrator is writing from an isolated English seaside vacation cottage. His wife of many years has died; despondent, he quits his dead-end Cambridge librarian’s job and rents this cottage in an off-season winter month to wallow in grief. But it is too lonely, and he becomes bored.   He has his laptop computer, and when a Cambridge ex-colleague e-mails him some lengthy mysterious text and audio files named “Roger”, he opens them.

The files, from Roger and a man identified only as “Wiggy”, make it clear that Roger is supposedly a talking cat. Although incredulous at first, the narrator gradually comes to believe that the files are genuine. Roger really is a talking cat. What most convinces the narrator is Wiggy’s unmistakable denseness. The witty, sarcastic Roger constantly makes references and comments that go over Wiggy’s head, which the narrator gets. (Wiggy also tells enough about himself in bits and pieces to identify himself as a youngish amateur actor in Coventry named Will Caton-Pines.)

The first files relate to a screenplay about a talking cat that Wiggy is writing and is enthusiastic about selling. Roger is bored out of his mind. He doesn’t want to reveal himself to the public, and he is sure that Wiggy’s screenplay will be unsaleably bad. Different parts of the files explain how Wiggy acquired Roger (he was the pet of Wiggy’s sister, who has disappeared), and give Roger’s life story at length.

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The Great Catsby, by Linda Stewart – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and

The Great Catsby, by Linda Stewart
NYC, Cheshire House Books, September 2013, trade paperback $10.95 (143 [+ 1] pages).

This is the fourth novel in Stewart’s Sam the Cat series, officially children’s fantasies but often Edgar and Agatha Award mystery-fiction nominees. Stewart’s first, Sam the Cat: Detective (February 1993), was a generic hard-boiled mystery fantasy-parody, with Sam, one of a mystery-bookshop’s cats (the other is Sue, Sam’s sassy secretary), hired by an apartment building’s housecat to find their real human burglar and keep the apartment’s custodian from being framed. The next two novels, The Big Catnap (August 2000) and The Maltese Kitten (December 2002), were specific pastiches of The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (1939) and The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (1929), with Sam standing in for Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade, who practically defined the crime-noir private eye genre. Not exactly kids’ stuff. The Maltese Kitten also won the Cat Writers’ Association’s 2003 Muse Award in the Best Juvenile Fiction category.

Stewart seemed to run out of famous crime-noir mysteries to parody after 2002. But, eleven years later, here is The Great Catsby. Presumably you know what this is a pastiche of, even if you haven’t read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age classic. Not exactly a hard-boiled mystery, and still not exactly kids’ stuff; but it does get the series moving again.

“The first time I saw Catsby he was sitting atop a diving board and staring across a swimming pool at a lantern hung from a tree. It was one of those green paper Japanese lanterns and it flashed, in the local distance, like the light of an alien star. Of course I didn’t know he was Catsby then, or anything else about him. By his looks, he was nothing special – just a pleasantly yellow fellow with a curve at the tip of his tail. What impressed me had been his gaze – an almost laser-like concentration – and the stillness that seemed to surround him the way a halo surrounds a saint.” (p. 1)

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