Book Reviews: Lisping Cats, Fantasy Shorts, and Murderers

“How ‘bout some ice cream?”
“So early in the morning?” she chirped perkily.
I made the kind of grimace that usually spelled doom for a relationship. “It ain’t vodka.”

The Mutts Winter Diaries
This is a collection of comic strips from a series I’ve never seen, so it was interesting getting what is supposed to be a one-a-day all at once. The downside of this was not being familiar with the characters; took me a while to realize the one with the lisp is a cat.
Each section features a running theme; in the first we get dogs, cats, and birds all hating snow. The dog wears a sweater, the cat loses his purr, so on. The artwork is kinda minimal, almost sketchlike, but it doesn’t detract.
In a way it’s a typical comic strip: anthropomorphic animals being funny. This is steadily chuckleworthy, though some chuckles were louder than others. Don’t remember any actual laugh-out-loud moments, but certainly worth the time it took me to read it.

Dead Silent
Two cases in Manchester—England, that is—plus romantic problems keep a police detective on his toes. Between his affair with a hot reporter, a missing child, and a torture psycho murder, the cop seems in way over his head, but luckily has a few subordinates and a daughter that help him through. On the other hand, a mobster cousin promises to derail his career if he doesn’t help him with an alibi, as if there weren’t enough complications.
Didn’t like the ending, especially since I detest sequel hooks, or the way the poor Polish nanny was treated, but until then a solid detective thriller. Though I’m pretty well versed on Brit slang, the glossary at the end was helpful; I would have thought I would have figured out what “nick” meant by now. . .

Die for Me
Didn’t realize until I was near the end that I’d read another book in this series, of which this is the eighth; I blame it on the first person point of view.
A former reporter/now PI hears from a woman he once saved; she’s now a psychic, and tells him she pictured a body dump, and he has to find it. Despite the paucity of clues she gives him, and always remembering that this kind of plot twist is going to be convenient, I found the way it was all worked out convincing and logical, which put me in a good mood for the rest of the novel.
The rescue of the damsel in distress, while not eminently predictable, still happened the way I thought it would, albeit by someone other than the hero. The killer also turned out to be the most obvious, the one character who really didn’t have to be in the story. The most interesting part is all the women, many of whom are more interested in him than he is in them. I particularly liked the female detective, and wish there had been more on her; if there are more books in this series, I hope she’s in them. On the other hand, his soon-to-be-ex seems to only be there to tie up loose ends from previous books, and while at first I liked the coincidental meeting with the psychic’s niece, she soured me quickly.
In general, I liked it well enough, a serviceable mystery/thriller.

Strange Worlds Stories
As always with collections of short stories, it’s hard to give one single grade for the whole thing, while also bothersome to give a rating to each story.
Some of these are very entertaining. The first story features a doctor treating an alien for butt pain, only to be ground down by bureaucracy and a government cover-up; could have been better without the romantic frame, but still a solid 4. But from there a number of linked fantasy sorties, most of them parodies of other stories or genres, take up the bulk of the book, and little by little I lost interest. As a fan of the Myth series by Robert Asprin, as well as George Alec Effinger’s Maureen Birnbaum universe, it seemed to me that was what this author was reaching for, but it was never funny enough to get there. The western parody was cute, the Lord of the Rings one not as much. The Maid Marian story was fun, but unlike the previous entries, I felt the writing was more pedestrian here. Another entry seems to be a parody of 30s pulp sci-fi, with a tough babe fighting an alien monster named Zaftig. My fave was the Romeo and Juliet fantasy reworking at the end, especially the other Shakespeare characters who appear with just a slight name change: Otello, MacBath, Dreadmona, so on.



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