When Bunnies Go Bad By Clea Simon

IN THE MARCH 26 ISSUE by Cynthia Chow

Beauville, Massachusetts, is having one of its worst March winters in history, and all of the residents are suffering from cabin fever. The outburst by an angry restaurant customer still manages to stand out though, especially when his obnoxious demands reduce his ski bunny companion to near-tears. The bigger surprise is that when a body is found, it’s that of the belligerent diner Teddy Rhinecrest, and the arrested culprit is his meek girlfriend, Cheryl Ginger.

Animal behaviorist and pet-sitter Pru Marlowe is skilled at interpreting animal behavior and motivations, but humans prove to be far more confusing and complicated. Perhaps her comfort with her charges derives from her unique ability not only to sense what animals are thinking and feeling, but to hear the thoughts of her own feline companion, Wallis. No one knows better than Pru how even the mildest of prey can be turned vicious when threatened, but she questions whether the skittish Cheryl was the one with the most reasons for wanting Teddy dead.

The unnerving reappearance of Gregor Benazi, a lethal and very dapper criminal magnate with whom Pru has a tentative détente, further complicates this case of a mistress done wrong. As much as he would prefer it, Pru’s almost-boyfriend Detective Jim Creighton knows better than to order Pru to stay uninvolved. Fate and Pru’s dedication to her non-human clients compels her into using her inexplicable and unasked for skills to untangle an increasingly tangled web of criminal activities and deception.

Much of the enjoyment of this fifth in the Pru Marlowe Pet Noir series stems from Pru attempting to apply her animal behaviorist skills upon humans. The results may be mixed, but they are always fun. Pru continues to be annoyed by the gossip-mongering person of Bichon Frisé “Bitsy” (he prefers to be called Growler); the creepy minder of a ferret has an equally repellent cousin; and the wild animals Pru encounters prove to be the most sane and least neurotic of all. Pru fled the city and the confined spaces that seemed to amplify the voices in her head, and it is in small, economically struggling Beauville that she is learning to adjust by modeling her behavior on the non-humans she admires. Pru’s wry voice, sharp intelligence, and empathy for animals guarantee that this elaborately plotted mystery will entertain with its good humor and compellingly quirky characters.

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).