A note about The Cuddlywumps Chronicles

This blog is written and maintained by Miss Cuddlywumps, a fluffy-tailed calico cat who is both classically educated and familiar with mysteries. Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to author Roby Sweet. Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Blonde P.I. and a Big Black Cat Scratch Out Some Crime



Miss Cuddlywumps reviews the short story collection Cats and Crime by Fiona L. Woods



We wish more authors would publish short story collections featuring cats in mysteries. Because sometimes you need a little mystery in your day but you’re too involved in other things to get stuck into a novel, however satisfying that novel may turn out to be. Sometimes you just need a little something you can read in one sitting, a mystery that can be all wrapped up in the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee. But while stories like this can be a joy to read, they can be deadly difficult to write (this is why She of Little Talent has not yet written any short mysteries—“It’s too hard!” she whines). And that difficulty is why old SoLT and I admire writers like Fiona L. Woods for writing these short capers.

Woods’s collection Cats and Crime includes stories featuring newly minted P.I. Lori Stockley, who earned her credentials through a correspondence course, her Grandma Gladys, and Gladys’s large black cat, Panzer. Lori is young, short, and blonde, so nobody takes her seriously; the crooks do not even realize she is busy putting together all the clues to catch them, often with help from Panzer.

Panzer is a muscular 18-pound feline who is motivated by tuna and prefers albacore (who doesn’t?). Also, he is not afraid to attack people he does not like. (I think this is an admirable trait in a cat; some readers may disagree.) The collection’s opening story, “You’re Out!,” shows Panzer’s perspective on what happens to people who break into his home. This is clearly a cat of a few well-chosen words, though, as he tells the whole story in just five sentences. “You’re Out!” was my favorite story in the book for the way in which those few sentences give a clear picture of everything that happened.

“The Santa Claus Caper” was another favorite, in which Lori and Grandma Gladys, investigating an incident involving drugs and vicious animals at a pet photography studio, take Panzer to said studio to have a Christmas picture taken. Lori has to dress in an elf costume, which is fun (for us, not for her). But the best moment in the story (and in the book, in my opinion) comes when Panzer takes down Santa for all the mall to see.

Other stories have Lori and Panzer taking on a burglar, a bank robber, and a sweet-talking jewelry thief. The collection also features three bonus stories without Panzer: one with Lori investigating why a neighbor’s house is suddenly for sale when said neighbor is out of town for a couple of weeks and said neighbor’s cat is staying in the kennel, and two murder mysteries with Lori’s husband Matt in his role as a police detective. I must say I did not find the Matt stories as enjoyable as the Lori-and-Panzer stories, but I admit I am hardly an impartial judge: I wanted to read more Panzer mysteries!

Cats and Crime is a fun collection of light, quick-paced stories, and we would love to see more of Lori and Panzer. I give this book


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