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Douglas Perkins is a public relations official for London's prestigious Cats Through the Ages Exhibition. He is indifferent towards the critters, but has every intention of doing his best for his client, the overbearing Rose Chesne-Malvern. Perkins watches the exhibitors as they set up their booths, including those of a kitty litter marketer, the "court" of a TV commercial cat, and a display of two live adult Sumatran tigers. He notices the different ways they each interact with their animals and other exhibitors. Things run rather smoothly at the show until one of its more valuable exhibits is stolen. He then finds this is one job where his agency is really going to work hard for its public relations fee.
It is absolutely brilliant how well Author Marian Babson renders the personalities of all the different cats in her 1972 novel. Among some of the more illustrious feline characters are Pandora the Endearing, Precious Black Jade the Vicious, and Silver Fur the Stupid. Even the tigers are convincingly portrayed. This is obviously someone who has had a lot of experience around cats and shows incredible talent for distinguishing them in fiction.
The protagonist's character growth is stronger here than demonstrated in many other stories of the genre, which comes out through its love story subplot. After Perkins spends one night with his new lover, he is incredibly protective of her. When he's at a point of losing her, we see a life-changing moment.
Babson's prose is crisp and keeps interest. Her style is "sensuous" and without any waste. If criticism must be made, this reviewer noticed Perkins initiates very little of the action until the climax. He's more of an observer watching the conflicts unravel instead of actively investigating himself. On the other hand, the sequence comes together well and with good humor. If the novel is entertaining regardless, is this really a big deal?
MURDER AT THE CAT SHOW makes no pretensions at being a "serious" mystery genre story, but Babson's crafting is nonetheless superb. Readers who like cats will find this short novel a warm and fuzzy high.
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It is a delightful, undemanding read and I look forward to reading more cat mysteries written by this author.
I just started reading Babson's books, picking them up here and there, and I very much enjoy them. I like having different characters in every book (rathering than wondering which character in the little town of Catville is going to get murdered this year).
Babson's books are a joy to read. They do not insult your intelligence (as much as other books in this genre), the characters are developed, the stories are interesting.
If you like cat mysteries and have never given Babson a try, please do. You will be very pleasantly surprised. She's quite a good writer, her stories are fun...and you can always be sure the cats never get seriously hurt. ;-)
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This particular murder mystery is done just as straight-forwarded and written with the dry humor we've come to expect.
No one gives a more accurate picture of the English countryside and the people who live there than Marian Babson: her characters are well defined but she never gets wordy or preachy about it. It is the same with the deaths that take place in her novels: no gruesome details, just facts and good reading.
Do yourself a big favor and pick up this, or any of Ms. Babson's novels: you won't regret it.
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The kitties do play a supporting role, a duo named Had-I and But-Known, owned by cozy writer Lucinda Lucas, and Roscoe, by Macho Magee (formerly known as Lancelot Dalrymple). But they act as cats, not as characters on a par with their owners, as seen in Rita Mae Brown's series, nor do they offer hints as to who done it, as in Lillian Jackson Braun.
No, like the cats, Babson wants to play with the English literary scene, so her authors are beset by the neighborhood's new arrivals: the venomous critic Plantagenet Sutton, a college professor who collects writers like some collect butterflies, and a husband-and-wife duo seeking to record in camera and prose a year in the life of a charming English village. Not only that, but the characters in Lucinda and Macho's books seem to be acting up as well, resenting their creators' plans to replace them with other series.
Babson is a writer with a long track record, and she capably serves up in "Canapes for the Kitties" a charming, breezy cozy laced with some tart darts thrown at some tempting targets.
Babson has her cats and they figure in some way (generally quite funny)in each of her mysteries.
This book, like all of Ms. Babson's, is short, a fast read, excellently written and quite funny. She draws her characters quite well and describes the surroundings with such broad strokes that you can almost see it.
While others fall down on the job, with each new title Marian Babson holds onto the title of champion.
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Readers will know who the murderer is so there is no sleuth or mystery to solve; in fact the police don't play an active part in it, although they are mentioned. Being only 189 pages, it reads as a quick suspenseful story where the author takes the reader back and forth between Robin with his family and the murderer. Robin's life is heart wrenching, and although the path to which he got the cat was not good, having her in his life just might be.
And Marian Babson does a marvellous job at depicting the world of 11 year old Robin: a world in which he has been unceremoniously unloaded onto his young aunt, Mags, while his mother and her new husband have an extended honeymoon; a world in which he has, currently, very few friends, and in which he is very much resented by his aunt's live-in lover, Josh; and a world in which he is presently in trouble up to his eyeballs because he broke into the Nordling house in order to steal a valueable cat so that he could be part of a gang, and instead stumbled onto a murder scene. Robin doesn't have much faith in adults. From his outlook he has been severely let down by every adult in his life and he doesn't feel as if he could trust either Mags or Josh with the truth of what happened at the Nordling house. And so Robin soldiers on, trying to take care of the cat he rescued while he keeps an eye out, in case the murderer comes around looking for him.
Babson also does a wonderful job at depicting the murderous rage and the cold bloodedness of the killer who tries to cover up what has occurrerd and who then sets about to try and track Robin and the cat.
This is may not be a tension filled thriller, although there were some tense moments when it looked as if the murderer would give in to the rage and kill again, but this is definitely a well written book and a really enjoyable read.
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Margot (cousin to Chloe and Claudia), a professional photographer, returns home to her childhood home, in order to lend support to the uncle and aunt who helped raise her (Chloe and Claudia's parents). Tired and depressed, she is appalled to find that her uncle and aunt have more or less fallen apart at the seams: her Aunt Milly has retreated into the world of Regency romance novels, and her Uncle Wilfred has taken to overeating. And then there is Claudia's teenage daughter, Lynette, who has barricaded herself in her grandparents's bedroom and refuses to leave... As the date of the trial draws near, the tense atmosphere in the house mounts, as Margot tries to make sense of what happened and of Chloe's refusal to cooperate with the police or her counsel (Chloe has refused to talk to anyone about Claudia's murder). Kingsley wants the family to pressure Chloe to plead guilty so that she will never have to face a trial, and so that Lynette will not have to testify. But Margot cannot help but wonder if Chloe is actually guilty of having killed Claudia, or if she is covering up for someone else?
"The Cat Next Door" is not really a murder mystery novel at all (there are no cunning plot twists or red herring suspects), but a study of the psychological study of how a slightly eccentric family copes with a crisis. The novel unfolded a little slowly but flowed effortlessly, thus making it a really easy read. I must admit however that the manner in which everything was finally resolved did beggar belief! For the Claudia's murderer to calmly admit all, esp when no one suspected this character of any wrongdoing was not very probable. I think it would have been more likely for this character to have carried on the course (s)he had decided on and let everyone else stew! However the book was a nice read, and if you're looking for something to curl up with before falling asleep, you can't really go wrong with this novel.
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