Wednesday, September 19, 2012

TBR Challenge 2012: The More The Terrier

The Book: The More The Terrier by Linda O. Johnston

The Particulars: Cozy Mystery, Berkley Prime Crime, 2011, Book 2 in series, In Print

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?:  I was at an RWA local chapter meeting and the author was signing copies of this.  I wasn't going to buy one, but then I read the back cover blurb and noticed the murder suspect's name was Mamie (that's Mame-eee, not Mammy) and that just so happened to be my grandmother's name.  Yes folks, I'm this easy.  Impulse buy ahoy!

The Review:  Lauren Vancouver runs an animal rescue shelter in southern California.  After a divorce that left her wounded, she started volunteering at a shelter run by Mamie Spelling, a woman who would turn out to be a mentor.  When a local pet store chain announces their plans to open up their own rescue?  Lauren wows them with her business plan, and gets the job.  The problem?  Mamie wanted that job.  So the two had a falling out of sorts, and haven't spoken to each other in years.  That is until Lauren gets a very strange phone call from Mamie.  It's strange enough that Lauren drives across town to her old friend's shelter and what she discovers shocks her.

Mamie has become an animal hoarder!  Determined to help, Lauren calls the local authorities and during the rush to get the animals out Bethany Urber shows up.  The former head of a cosmetics empire, she sold her company and now devotes her time to her own animal rescue, as well as a network she founded called Pet Shelters Together.  The idea is for the local shelters to work together, share resources, yada yada yada.  The problem is Bethany, who is a media whore of the highest order and is about as warm and fuzzy as a rattlesnake.  She'd been strong-arming Mamie to join the network, threatening exposure of her hording if she didn't. 

Uppermost in Lauren's mind is saving the animals and getting help for her old friend.  She doesn't know who this new Mamie is, but she can't ignore the fact that the woman helped her out when she was at a low ebb, post divorce. However things get more complicated when Lauren gets another hysterical phone call from Mamie.  Turns out she stopped by Bethany's place and found the woman dead.  Oh, and Mamie's fingerprints?  Happen to be on the gun that did the deed.

I cut my reading teeth on cozy mysteries and still have a soft spot for them.  The problem is either my tastes have radically changed or the de-evolution of the sub genre is starting to get to me.  Cozies have come to rely very heavily on "hooks."  It's apparently not enough to just have a lighter-toned mystery these days with minimal blood and guts.  No, you need a gimmick.  Magical cats, knitting, baking, vintage fashion, underwater basket-weaving, etc.  The problem is that it is easy for these "hooks" to overwhelm what should be the focus of the story - the puzzle of solving the mystery.  And if, as the reader, you're not madly in love with whatever the "hook" is?  You're in for a ho-hum read.

Which is exactly what happened to me here.  There's a lot of animal stuff here.  Lots of stuff about rescuing and finding adopted homes and Lauren making home visits and finding animals abandoned on the doorstep of her shelter and what's going to happen to the animals that were recovered at Mamie's and.....

I don't care!

I want to care about the dead body.  Who killed Bethany?  But it's buried under a lot of other stuff that I was personally not interested in.  I wasn't reading this book to learn about animal rescue organizations.  I was reading this book for a light mystery.

So what does this mean?  Well, it means that unless it directly involved the mystery-solving I pretty much skimmed large chunks of this book.  I just wasn't into it.  But that doesn't mean that some other reader might not be into it.  It's just that I am, admittedly, not a hardcore animal person.  I like doggies.  I like kitties.  But I also am not volunteering my time and money towards animal causes.  If you are?  This may be just the read for you.  Johnston has created a heroine who is obviously passionate about her job.  Who loves animals and loves to work at finding homes for them.  I simply wasn't invested in this aspect of the story.  And because it takes up a large chunk of the book?  It meant I wasn't really all that invested in the rest of the goings-on either.  There's a pleasant read here, and I did zip through it in a day, but I now know enough to say this just ain't my cup of tea.  One is enough, I'm out.

Grade = C


Hilcia said...

See, I wouldn't pick up this book, Wendy. You hit the nail on the head, those "hooks" really turn me off about most cozy mysteries these days. I want the mystery not all those other distractions about whatever.

I used to love them, and don't read them any longer. :(

Jill said...

Yes, I feel like the hooks are just as likely to turn off people as turn them on.
I used to love to browse bookstores (when there were some near our house!) with my husband and try to find the weirdest mystery series gimmick to show him. If something becomes hip or trendy, rest assured that a mystery series will rise up to fill that niche. I think the gourd painting and scrapbooking mysteries were the two that I personally found the oddest.

Christine said...

That's a good point about the "hooks" in a lot of the cozy mysteries out there. I never really thought about it too much, but if you're not into that particular theme, a lot of the appeal is missing.

I'm still reading my tbr book. What else is new? lol Hopefully before the end of the week.

Wendy said...

Hils: It makes me sad because I cut my teeth on cozies. I'd love to find another series to glom on to - but right now the only cozy series I'm reading is Laura Levine's Jaine Austen books....

Jill: OMG - gourd painting?!?! Seriously?!?!?! LOL

Christine: Johnston can write, and she's capable of delivering a good, light mystery. It just.....all got lost among all the animal stuff.

azteclady said...

As much as I like animals, I don't think I could read this one. In fact, I have a number of cozies in the humongous TBR that I just pass over every time I look for something to read, exactly because of the gimmicks.

nath said...

Oh Wendy!! I totally hear you about the hook and I totally agree! Why that need?! Can't it just be mystery.

I do have the first book of this series, picked it up at least year's RWA, but don't really feel the urge to read it. Also, why are most heroines in cosy mystery divorcees?

Leslie said...

I rarely read cozy mysteries, they just seem too cute. I think it's because I love romantic suspense that I end up comparing the two and find the cozies lacking.