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Two Pet Noir Mysteries

I’ve recently read two offerings in the “pet noir” mystery sub-genre.  They are “Panthers Play for Keeps” by Clea Simon and “Muzzled” by Eileen Brady.  Clea Simon is a former journalist who lives in Massachusetts with her husband and cat, Musetta. (See her site, www.cleasimon.com.)  “Panthers” is the fourth novel in her Pru Marlowe series.  Eileen Brady’s “Muzzled” is the first in the Kate Turner, DVM Mystery series.  Brady, who is a veterinarian with 20 years of experience in that field, decided to submit this book to Poisoned Press’ 2013 Discover Mystery Award and won.  Brady’s site is www.eileenbradymysteries.com. Both books are very well written and edited.  Both are quite humorous page-turners published by Poisoned Pen Press.

Pru Marlowe, the “Panthers” heroine, trains dogs to become service animals.  The dog she is currently training to assist a man who is rapidly going blind discovers the dead body of a woman who appears to have been mauled by a wild animal.  Pru decides to use her unique power to decipher what animals are thinking and saying to help the police figure out what happened.  Pru and her animal informants determine that this was not just a random animal attack, but a case of murder.

Dr. Kate Turner in “Muzzled” is the substitute vet in an upstate New York practice while the long-time owner takes a lengthy trip. While making a house call at the home of some champion Cavalier King Charles spaniels Kate discovers the dead bodies of the owners in what initially looks like a murder-suicide.  The more Kate discovers about the crotchety and vindictive Langthorne’s, the more likely it appears to Kate that the couple were murdered.  She is almost the victim of the killer before she gets a chance to report irrefutable evidence of murder and other ancillary crimes to the police.

While I recommend both of these entertaining “pet noirs” I admit that “Muzzled” is more to my taste.  I liked getting a realistic taste of what it is like to be in the shoes of a real vet.  The plot is totally believable and it builds with increasing drama to the final tense and exciting chapters.  With “Panthers Play for Keeps” I enjoyed the humor and how in tune Pru is with her surroundings and the animals under her care. The thought process between Pru and her cat, Wallis, are especially humorous. Even though I believe the author and her protagonist do have a finely-tuned “animal whisperer” sensitivity, I must admit I am not a fan of books where the animals’ thoughts are put into quotes as if they are speaking to the protagonist.  This anthropomorphism makes “Panthers” less believable to me.  It also bothers me that panthers and cougars seem to be used interchangeably in the book and my brief research into these animals indicates that it has not necessarily been proven that they are the same.

Still, there will be many fans who will enjoy both pet noirs, “Muzzled” and “Panthers Play for Keeps,” and I give a thumbs up for both.

Reviewed from supplied copies.

Liz Nichols

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