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by Clea Simon
Poisoned Pen Press, July 2018
225 pages
ISBN: 1464210098

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

FEAR ON FOUR PAWS by Clea Simon is the seventh Pru Marlowe Pet Noir mystery and – no surprise here – she is asked by Albert, a colleague, to help prove he didn't kill Paul, a friend of his. Pru, a pet psychic and animal behaviorist, and state game warden Greg Mishka find a very drunk Albert asleep next to a young black bear, bound in a rope snare and drugged. Greg takes charge of the bear and Pru takes Albert and Frank, his pet ferret, back to Albert's office where he works as the Beauville's Animal Control Officer. The next day Paul is found dead in a locked shed at the "camp" used by Albert, Paul and their friends.

Apparently, Pru's method of solving crimes is to communicate with animals, domesticated and wild, and collect clues from those conversations. Pru agrees to take care of Frank while Albert is being held by police, but Frank is more worried about Albert than what is going to happen to him.

Pru spends a lot of time communicating with various animals, including her own somewhat snarky tabby, Wallis, who continuously comments on Pru's life choices and actions. Pru also maintains a practice of walking/training pets that provides plenty of interactions with animal characters. Bitsy, a small Bichon, informs Pru his name is Growler and Pru allows him to enjoy his freedom on their walks when out of his owner's sight. Then there's Spot, who claims to be Bunbury Bandersnatch, a cat that Pru trains to walk on a leash for his owner after the cat went missing for a short time. While there are more animal characters that Pru connects with, the most meaningful in this adventure is Frank, who Pru believes knows more than he initially shares.

This is an interesting read. The story line moves back and forth: from Pru trying to find out how Albert is involved in the bear trapping, to taking care of her regular pet clients, and back to the investigation as she tries to pump her boyfriend, Detective Jim Creighton, about what's happening. While this tends to be a bit confusing, the exchanges between various animal characters and Pru are skillfully done and sound genuine. The mystery is good but the conversations between Pru and the animals make this a delightful read with little noir to be found.

§ Ruth Castleberry has worked as an investigator for Pinkerton’s, a city desk assistant on the Charlotte News, free-lance writer, marketing/business strategy consultant, competitive intelligence practitioner and digital marketing consultant.

Reviewed by Ruth Castleberry, May 2018

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