Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Cats in Detective and Crime Fiction, and a Farewell to Lilian Jackson Braun

Clea Simon's 2011 "pet psychic" mystery DOG'S DON'T LIE twists a lively plot and some characters that are worth following onward from this (I hope) first in a new series for the Massachusetts author. It's a bit edgier than a classic cozy, and I like that aspect -- like adding a slice of lemon to a summer iced tea, the zing is worthwhile. Not only are the dogs and cats (and a ferret!) in the book endowed with strong and eerily realistic personalities, but the narrative also offers insight into how pet lovers interact with the intelligent creatures who share their lives. Especially when murder intervenes ...

Collectors of mysteries that include cats will appreciate the loss of author Lilian Jackson Braun, who died last weekend at the age of 97. She is known as the founder of this subgenre, and in a recent blog essay, Sarah Weinman gives a fine summary of Braun's writing and influence.

For a list and good discussion of cat-theme mysteries, check here. This list is made up of "cozies" -- mysteries in which a dead body shocks the discoverer but rarely shows up in full gory detail, and in which there will be a mostly happy ending. There is also a very small genre of cat "true crime," for which the Gothamist article here is a good sample.

Check out this Gothamist "true crime" cat work.
It's easy to categorize cat mysteries as almost always cozies. The same is emphatically not true of dog ones, though (including Clea Simon's latest, mentioned at the start of this post). Spencer Quinn offers some of the wittiest of the "dog noir" work that's now erupting. We'll have more on that, later in the summer.

Right now, though, I've got to get back to setting up chairs and baking cookies for Saturday's big Kingdom Books author event with Dave Zeltserman -- emphatically not a "cozy" writer! We'll feature his newest crime novel, Outsourced, this weekend; it's a darkly funny caper tale of a group of long-out-of-work computer geeks who dare to launch a bank robbery, thinking they can keep crime clean. Ha! We'll also have a lot of Zeltserman's other work, and Dave is going to announce (later today) a special offer on the hardcover first printing of Zeltserman's Bad Karma. Stay in touch.

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