Mandy Morton: The No 2 Feline Detective Agency Sunday, Jul 26 2015 

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Welcome to the world of Hettie Bagshot and her best friend, Tilly, named for the author’s cats, in The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency.
And what a world it is! Not one for inserting a cat as a companion to a human, Morton has these cats inhabit their own world, complete with sly references and ripe with innuendo. In the true spirit of the books, sales will help feed, shelter and find loving homes for less fortunate cats.

Hettie Bagshot and Tilly live in the Butter Sisters Bakery back room, a perfect spot for warming ovens and replete with staff luncheon vouchers to hold hunger at bay as the dynamic duo await their very first case. (The idea for becoming a private detective occurred to Hettie when she was watching the long-running play A Mouse Trapped.) When that case turns out to be a search for missing dead cats, the reader knows the hijinks can’t be far behind.

Marcia Woolcoat, the matron of the Furcross Home for slightly older cats, promises a Dignicat burial when each cat’s time has come. Unfortunately for her, three recently deceased cats have been dug up and their corpses stolen, reminding Hettie of the infamous grave robbers Bert and Hair.

The fun keeps piling on as Hettie knows the Furcross cook from her touring days with her band, echoing Morton’s earlier professional days as a songwriter-musician. Marley Toke specializes in Jamaican food for the cats and grows her own catnip in the garden. With financial transactions providing rent and food for Hettie and Tilly, the fact that they have no idea what they’re doing seems besides the point.

Readers will meet Hettie’s plumber friend Poppy Phene, who drives the cats around in his van, while they chorus to Tabby Wynette’s version of “Stand By Your Van.” It’s not like Hettie is the FBI–the Feline Bureau of Investigation–so she has to use her wits to keep her retainer with Marcia going. The guests at Furcross range from the gardner, Digger Patch, to the dashing Marilyn Repel, late of The Prince and the Showcat, with star Larry O’Liver. Marilyn’s daughter, Cocoa is a fashion designer, working in concert with nail specialist Oralia Claw. And there’s the nurse, Alma Mogadon, who is keeping dark secrets of her own.

If Hettie has the brains, Tilly keeps the duo going on a daily basis with her housekeeping and secretarial chores. And don’t forget Tilly’s favorite author, mystery writer Polly Hodge, an homage to the cat of P D James, friend and mentor to Morton. Tilly’s reading Hodge’s newest: An Unsuitable Job for a Cat, along with others by Nicola Uptide and Alexander McPaw Spit.

Auntie M quite enjoyed the twisted plot–yes, there IS a plot–and a mystery to be solved in Hettie’s inimitable fashion, assisted by Tilly. There is genuine love between the two cats, and anyone how who isn’t enamored with the series needs to run right out and adopt a cat–or two.

Their world without humans is quite entrancing, from the details of the food eaten to the clothes worn, and Morton has a real winner for cat lovers everywhere. This delightful series is witty and smart. So enter the world of Hettie Bagshot and her best mate, Tilly, and be prepared to be besotted.

Look for Book Two, Cat Among the Pumpkins, later this year.

Elizabeth George: Just One Evil Act Sunday, Oct 20 2013 

Don’t let the length of over seven hundred pages deter you from plunging into Elizabeth George’s new novel, Just One Evil Act. The eighteenth Inspector Lynley novel will leave readers knowing much more than a few Italian phrases once they’ve finished this tome.    images_012

The action centers on the reaction of Lynley’s sergeant, Barbara Havers, to the news her handsome neighbor’s daughter has disappeared.

Havers’ friendship with the girl, Hadiyyah Upman, and her father, microbiolgist Taymullah Azhar, has grown over the two years the duo were the detective’s neighbors.  In the last installment, Believing the Lie, Hadiyyah’s mother had waltzed back into her daughter’s life, surprising the girl, her father, and Havers, all seduced by the woman’s easy manner and ability to fabricate a believable friendship. Angelina Upman is a complicated woman keeping multiple secrets, a beauty whose family has disowned her for having a child with the married Pakistani scientist.

Months pass with no word on the child’s whereabouts, despite Havers’ digging and helping Azhar hire a private detective.

Then Hadiyyah is kidnapped from a market in Lucca, Italy, where she’s been with her mother and Angelina’s fiance. Desperate to help Azhar, worried for the child, Havers makes the fatal mistake of enlisting a tabloid journalist to force the British police to become involved in the British citizen’s abduction. To her dismay, it is Lynley who is sent to Italy to liaise with the British family.

This splendidly plotted novel takes readers to Italy, introducing their very different policing system, and the wily detective Salvatore Lo Bianco. While Italian phrases liberally dot these scenes, George cleverly manages to convey their meaning without direct translations. The intriguing setting is well-described and adds another layer to this complex novel.

In London, Havers finds herself embroiled deeper and deeper into career-killing choices. On the personal front, Lynley is trying to convince himself he is starting to put his wife’s death behind him, and finds himself drawn to an unsuitable zoo veterinarian. His past fling with Superintendent Isabelle Ardery confuses everything, and will impact heavily on Havers’ future.

At one point readers will think the novel has reached its climax right in its middle, only to find that what would have been an ending for another writer is merely a step into the convoluted story that continues to branch off and have fingers reaching right into the lives of all these characters on different levels. At one point a resolution will appear completely out of sight, yet there is an ending that will satisfy readers, even as it does not satisfy every character.

This is a multi-layered story of love and betrayal, and what lengths we will choose when the heart is involved.