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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Familiar Tale

** Familiar Tale by Caroline Burnes. Romantic suspense.

Someone, a long time ago, suggested that if I liked the Midnight Louie series, I's also like the Fear Familiar Mysteries. If this book is any indication of the series as a whole, they were wrong.

It starts out with a feud between popular children's author Eugene Legander and acerbic radio talk show host Crush Bonbon, who asserts that Eugene must be responsible for a missing child because his books are full of eeeevil things, like children turning into animals and disrespecting their parents. (shock, dismay)

The problem is, more children are disappearing, and Eugene's been seen near each of them before their disappearance.

Jennifer Barkley is Eugene's publicist and friend, making the situation doubly important to her, and making her especially eager to prevent reporter James Tenet from writing the story that could ruin both Eugene's career and her own.

And every once in a while we hear from Familiar, a cat belonging to a friend of a friend. This is where the similarity to the Midnight Louie stories comes in--Familiar doesn't have nearly as large of a role, but he does do similar things: nudges the humans in the direction of the solution. He's like a cross between Midnight Louie and Koko from the The Cat Who... books.

Basically, this book tries to be a light mystery with a romance, and it just doesn't work. The missing children are treated almost as an afterthought, everyone being much more concerned with promoting their own agendas. So much just doesn't add up. The police seem to be just reacting to whatever the town's prevailing mood is at the time rather than actually investigating--when most people believe Eugene is innocent, they ask him one or two desultory questions and accept his answers without further elaboration; when the town believes he must be guilty, they haul him away in handcuffs. And the clues--pages from Eugene's book left at the scene of each abduction--make no sense. But then, neither does the motive fit the crimes--in general, maybe, but there were some specifics that were never explained.

Eugene himself is either ridiculous or pitiful. He reminds me of Mr. Rogers--if Mr. Rogers would refuse to defend himself against kidnapping charges, that is.

The romance between Jennifer and James should have been a decent one--they've got a good conflict there, with opposing goals, but they didn't really spend much time falling in love. They, like the book, concentrated on proving Eugene's guilt or innocence. Fortunately for the children, the best way to do that was to find out who had abducted the children, because nobody seemed really concerned about them, other than in a theoretical way. When they did focus on the romance, the dialogue and thoughts were stilted and almost embarrassing to read.

I got the distinct impression that the book was a mystery with a bit of a rivalry/romantic tension between Jennifer and James and that the romance was added later, possibly by someone else. I know, I know--it's not fair speculating like that. I'm really not saying that's what happened, just that it's how it seemed to me.

This book was only 249 pages long, and even so, I found it a chore to finish. I'm not going to be looking for more of this series.


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