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Cat and Mouse

The Cat, The Devil, The Last Escape: A Novel by Shirley Rousseau Murphy & Pat J. J. Murphy (William Morrow, $24.99, 313 pages)

The Cat The Devil

On their visits to Morgan she found it increasingly hard to hide her despair at the lack of a job. When she was with him she talked hopefully about their request for an appeal, but too often he would simply hug her and change the subject, knowing she was holding back her stress and doubts.

This book is a second collaboration between prolific author Shirley Rousseau Murphy and her husband, Pat J. J. Murphy. They have spun off from Ms. Murphy’s talking cat series and put humans at the center of the action. (Oh, no. Ed.) Predictably, there’s a morality theme focused on struggles with the Devil. The tale is a seamless follow-up to The Cat, The Devil, and Lee Fontana.

Misto, the ageless cat, is the link tying a small family in deep trouble with Lee Fontana, the train robber turned bank robber. There is a pervasive theme of despair mixed with anxiety as the somewhat predictable tale meanders around the country in search of justice for the small family. The reader must wait until one-third of the way through the book before things take a turn for the better. (It must be noted that the co-authored books do not flow as smoothly or effortlessly as the ones written solely by Shirley Rousseau Murphy.)

The Cat, The Devil back cover

Cautiously recommended for fans of Lee Fontana and Misto.

Cheer Up Mouse

Cheer Up, Mouse! by Jed Henry (Houghton Mifflin, $12.99, 32 pages)

Mouse is feeling sad and his wonderful gang of friends is here to bring him back from the depths. As with Good Night, Mouse, little listeners and their story readers will delight in the lush illustrations by Jed Henry. His lyrics, for the words are much more than just a story, follow the rhythm of the characters’ natural inclinations as each takes a turn at cheering up Mouse.

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There’s no need for a spoiler alert because the author/illustrator guarantees a happy ending. Sometimes simple is better and suffering can be alleviated with love and caring. This book only takes 30 some pages to make its point, unlike the Murphy collaboration that struggles along for 313 pages.

Cheer Up, Mouse banner

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

Review copies were provided by the publishers.

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Hold the Line

On the Line: A Bill Smith/Lydia Chin Novel by S. J. Rozan (St. Martin’s Press; $24.99; 336 pages)

If reading a suspense thriller by David Baldacci is like driving in a new Porsche, reading a private investigator thriller by S. J. Rozan is like riding through the streets of New York City in a turbo-charged go-kart.   You never know what you’re going to bump into!

Rozan writes in a style that is part 1950s detective magazine, part retro (think of Denis Johnson’s Nobody Move), part Miami Vice/Hill Street Blues and more than a bit of Batman and Robin.   In order to follow her story you will need to suspend reality or believe in – as does the main character – miracles.

As the story opens our protagonist P.I. Bill Smith receives a mysterious message on his cell phone telling him that his partner and love interest Lydia Chin has been kidnapped.   Smith doesn’t know who’s behind this but correctly suspects that it’s someone he helped put in prison.   He’s soon provided with a “clue” that leads him to an abandoned building in Manhattan in which he finds a dead girl.   This, naturally, is a set-up.   The NYPD officers arrive just after Smith does and suspect him of murder.   Smith has to fight with and escape from the cops just as he’s about to begin his frantic search for Lydia.

The person who has kidnapped Lydia has set a clock on this “game” of cat and mouse, life and death.   Smith must find Lydia before time runs out, because her kidnapper has promised to kill her once the clock reaches double-zero.   Smith needs to figure out who exactly has taken Lydia, and where she’s been taken while he hides from the police and, oh yes, as new crimes take place and the police suspect him of being the perpetrator.   Smith would have little chance of dealing with all of this by himself, but two young assistants come to his rescue and he’s also got a friend inside the NYPD who performs a few of the miracles he needs.

Rozan’s writing style is rapid and breathless.   As the story begins, the reader will likely feel (as with Nobody Move) that too much is happening too fast.   But if you accept the fact that dramatic events are going to happen every few pages, the read becomes a highly entertaining – and exhilarating – one.   If you’re like this reader, you will begin On the Line wondering if you will be able to finish it.   On doing so, you will be calling a bookstore to order one of the nine previously released Bill Smith/Lydia Chinn novels.

Recommended.

This review was written by Joseph Arellano.   A review copy was received from the publisher.   On the Line was released by St. Martin’s on September 28, 2010.

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