|Melon on the lookout for parrots.|
Reviewed by Jeanne
Pru Marlowe has worked with a lot of dogs and cats in her time, but a parrot is something new. Pru is called after owner Polly Larkin has passed away in a nursing home, and the owner’s daughter isn’t eager to take on a foul-mouthed bird with the almost uncanny ability to use the most insulting phrases possible at the worst possible time. Pru is hoping her psychic link to animals will help her get Randolph in shape for a new home, but communication with the bird is proving difficult. He seems agitated, repeating certain phrases and sounds. Soon Pru begins to wonder about the “accident” that killed his owner, and to ponder if Randolph is a witness to a murder.
If it was a murder, there are any number of suspects: a down-trodden daughter who might relish no longer having her life dominated by her mother, a son who seems no more interested in his mother dead as he was when she was living, a nosy nursing home neighbor who seems to know quite a lot about Polly’s business, an aide who seems to know more than she’s saying, and a supercilious doctor who likes to pop up unannounced but be unavailable when needed. Jim Creighton, her police detective friend who would like to be a bit more than a friend, is preoccupied with another situation and doesn’t seem inclined to investigate a seemingly routine death of an elderly person at a nursing home.
Meanwhile, Pru is also dealing with a young raccoon who has gotten himself in deep trouble at a housing development with a bit of breaking and entering of his own.
All our favorite characters have returned for this third book in the series. Bitsy the Bichon, aka Growler, is still a mighty dog in a tiny body, who tolerates his insensitive owner because he has no other choice. Frank the ferret is still after his shiny objects, and Wallis the cat is still making her pungent observations. Pru has grown up a bit, become more comfortable in her own skin, and while still wary of her ability has accepted it and tries to make use of it. She’s even thawed just a bit toward Creighton, though her skittishness at relationships means there’s still distance between them. On the other hand, she still has a streak of recklessness that indicates she needs to work on her sense of self-preservation.
As I read Parrots Prove Deadly, it occurred to me that in some ways this is a New Age version of the classic puzzle mystery. Instead of having a word written in blood or a conveniently torn scrap of paper, Pru receives rather cryptic messages from creatures. Well, cryptic to humans; to the animals they make perfect sense, and they are sometimes as frustrated as Pru that the message isn’t understood. That’s one of the things I like about this series: the animals understand things in their own way, devoid of the layers of trappings that humans tend to add. They also tend NOT to meddle in or spend a lot of time commenting on human behavior.
Another part I enjoy is that Simon does her research so that she knows a bit about the behavior of parrots, raccoons, etc. Not all authors do, and sometimes I find myself questioning as assumption the character makes; it takes me right out of the story. I don’t have that problem with Simon’s work. She’s also even-handed in her treatment of some sticky issues in animal welfare, giving each side a say. Finally, I admire Simon’s restraint. It would be so easy to make the non-human characters dependent and adorable rather than adult creatures. It would be easy to ratchet up the supernatural element and jump on the mystic bandwagon. Instead, she works to make her story fit a realistic setting. The result is a classic mystery with some modern trappings, but one which will also appeal to animal lovers.
If you'd like to read more about Simon and her books, the website is www.cleasimon.com. She will be posting an excerpt from Parrots Prove Deadly soon, too. You can also see photos of the glorious Musetta, model for Esme in Simon's Grey series.
Full disclosure: I was given an Advanced Reader's Copy of the book, but that did not influence my review.
|Melon isn't sure he likes the idea of a bird with firepower.|