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mysteries

Say auf wiedersehen to the meerkat detectives

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Meerkly.jpgDo you read German? I don’t.

I have been occasionally checking to see whether any more of the German murder mysteries featuring animal private detectives have been translated into English. Sadly, all we’ve gotten is three of Akif Pirinçci’s eight hard-boiled cat murder mysteries (Felidae and two of its sequels featuring Francis – you’ve probably seen the German “Felidae” animated feature), and the first of Leonie Swann’s Agatha Christie-like sheep murder mysteries (“Three Bags Full” featuring Miss Maple, the cleverest sheep in Glenkill, maybe in all Ireland, maybe in the world). There have not been any translations of the murder mysteries investigated by dog detectives, pig detectives, goose detectives, parrot detectives, and more. Now it looks like the series by Moritz Matthies starring Ray and Rufus, the meerkat detectives from the Berlin Zoo, has reached its final volume with “Letzte Runde” (“Last Round”) from Fischer Verlag (March 2017, 304 pages).

The Master’s Early Work

Discotek Media have released all 26 episodes of the original anime series Sherlock Hound in a special 6-DVD box set. “Written and Directed by Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away) during his time at Japans largest animation studio, TMS. Before he went on to create Totoro and Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki captured a whole generation of children’s imaginations with his retelling of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries using a loveable cast of canines. Sherlock Hound, released as either Famous Detective Holmes or Detective Holmes in Japan, is an anime based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series where all the characters are depicted as anthropomorphic animals, the majority dogs, though Holmes is a fox and his enemy Professor Moriarty is a wolf. The show featured regular appearances of Jules Verne steampunk-style technology, adding a 19th-century science-fiction atmosphere to the series.” You can order the new box set over at Discotek’s web site.

image c. 2014 Discotek Media

image c. 2014 Discotek Media

Review: 'The Mysterious Affair of Giles', by Kyell Gold

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The Mysterious Affair of GilesThe Mysterious Affair of Giles is an Agatha Christie-styled murder-mystery and is best read with a cup of tea nearby. (publisher’s blurb)

Kyell Gold already has the reputation of being the preeminent author of high-quality erotica in Furry fandom. Now it seems that he is trying to establish a similar reputation as furry fandom’s number one mystery author, at least of what is usually called the British “cozy” mysteries, or the country-house murder mysteries of which Agatha Christie was the acknowledged mistress.

The Mysterious Affair of Giles makes no secret of this. It is advertised as an Agatha Christie-styled murder-mystery. It is dedicated “To Dame Agatha for all the inspiration.”

An acknowledgement thanks London furry fan Alice "Huskyteer" Dryden for “Brit-picking” the manuscript, making sure that it, and especially the dialogue, are correctly British. The furry characters are all English animals except where they are noted as coming from British India. Most tellingly, the title The Mysterious Affair of Giles is an obvious pastiche of Christie’s first novel, the 1920 The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which introduced both her as a mystery author and her most famous private detective, Hercule Poirot.

Yet do not think that Gold’s novella is a point-by-point imitation. There is no Famous Detective in it. The year is 1951; not exactly the present, but not the old-fashioned past, either. Tremontaine is a large manor house a couple of hours’ drive from London. The cast is Mr. Giles St. Clair, an aristocrat but also an up-to-date industrialist, his wife, and their son and daughter in their early twenties, all red foxes, and Martin Trevayn, Giles’ business partner, a stoat, their guest at Tremontaine on a business visit, plus the manor staff, a deer senior housemaid, two weasel cooks, a rabbit and an Indian otter housemaid, an Indian brown rat butler and Mr. Giles’ dhole valet.

Twelve characters. One of them is murdered.

The principal investigators are a badger police Inspector and his wolf Sergeant. The mystery’s protagonist is Ellie Stone, the young weasel assistant cook, a reader of murder-mystery novels who has never wanted to live in a real one, but who can’t help comparing the actual police’s sleuthing with her fictional police’s detecting. Naturally, everyone has a secret, and during the course of the story they all come out. Some are pertinent; others are not.

Kyell Gold’s stories often come with “Adults Only” readers’ advisories. The Mysterious Affair of Giles does not need one – quite – but its cast are all adults, and some of the secrets revealed are adult ones. I do not recall Agatha Christie ever delving into this territory, but it feels natural here and it helps to keep the story from being a period-piece.

Illustrations by Sara "Caribou" Miles,Dallas, TX, FurPlanet Publications, February 2014, trade paperback $9.95 (107 [+2] pages), Kindle $6.99.

Maybe Someday a New Chick Flick?

Sorry, sorry… It’s called The Chicken Squad, a series of light-hearted mystery stories written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Kevin Cornell.  “Meet the Chicken Squad: Dirt, Sugar, Poppy, and Sweetie. These chicks are not your typical barnyard puffs of fluff, and they are not about to spend their days pecking chicken feed and chasing bugs. No sir, they’re too busy solving mysteries and fighting crime.” In The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure, “… when Squirrel comes barreling into the chicken coop, the chicks know they’re about to get a case. But with his poor knowledge of shapes (‘Big’ is not a shape, Squirrel!) and utter fear of whatever it is that’s out there, the panicky Squirrel is NO HELP. Good thing these chicks are professionals”. Following all this? Check out this new book series from Atheneum Books for Young Readers over at Amazon, in one of several formats.

[Hey, don't forget! You only have one week left to vote for the Ursa Major Awards -- the Hugo Awards (tm) of anthropomorphic fandom! Visit www.ursamajorawards.org to find out how.]

If You Could Be Anything…

Anomaly Productions have released a new full-color hardcover graphic novel called Shifter. It’s the first in a planned new series. “What if you could soar with the birds – not in a man-made contraption or by using virtual reality, but as an actual bird? What if you could literally be a fly on the wall in a top-secret meeting? What if you could become any animal in the world or, better yet, anybody in the world? What if you could become any creature that has ever existed (and some you never believed could exist)? Find out the answers to these questions and more in Shifter, the latest full-color graphic novel from Anomaly Productions. Shifter is a sci-fi murder mystery with a unique perspective, a pulse-pounding thriller that explores the depths of humanity’s evil and the tremendous powers of the animal kingdom.”  You can find out more, and see more sample pages, at Anomaly’s Shifter page. Written and illustrated by Brian Haberlin (assisted by Brian Holguin), like many Anomaly Productions products Shifter features an available app to download. Aim your smart phone at the page, and animated characters leap out of the book and dance before you.


image c. 2013 Anomaly

Review: 'Yok', by Tim Davys

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YokYok is the final novel of the pseudonymous Swedish Davys’ “Mollison Town quartet”. The first three, Amberville, Lanceheim, and Tourquai, were reviewed here in January 2012. Each is set in one of Mollison Town’s four districts.

The quartet is unique among adult anthropomorphic fiction in featuring living plush animals, not the standard humanized “real” animals. Davys has established a complex history and biology for them (see the previous review for details).

HarperCollins/Harper, July 2012, hardcover $22.00 (368 pages), Kindle $7.99. [Translated by Paul Norlen]

Moo-Steries ['Murderous Critters']

Author Dawn Kravagna has released Murderous Critters, her first collection of Cattle Capers ™ mystery stories on-line at Smashwords. “Murderious Critters is a trio of outrageously funny mystery short stories, the first collection in a series featuring the zany comic animal characters from the world of Cattle Capers ™. A killer magician, rogue dinosaur skeletons, and roaming gunslingers are no match for bovine Master Detective Adam Steer and his goofy sidekick Crazy Cal.” The stories here include “The Magician’s Trick”, “The Dino Sore Mystery”, and “The Moontana Murders”, as well as the extra short story “Whopper Fish”.


image c. 2013 Dawn Kravagna

Michael. Elephant. Detective.

There’s no way we could describe the new graphic novel District 14 any better than the publisher, Humanoids Inc., did in Previews magalog: “Follow Michael the elephant as he arrives to the city known as District 14, a labyrinthine metropolis where humans, animals and aliens all co-exist.  A unique anthropomorphic mystery with an intricate plot and a fantastic cast of characters, this incredible French series is finally making its way across the Atlantic.” It’s written by Pierre Gabus and illustrated in black & white by Romuald Reutimann, and it’s coming out in hardcover this January.


image c. 2012 Humanoids Inc

Review: 'Corpus Lupus', by Phil Geusz

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Corpus LupusWerewolf fiction is borderline-anthropomorphic, and Corpus Lupus is especially so. At least these werewolves are sentient, not feral dumb beasts. But the narrator, homicide detective Lieut. Larry Highridge, and his Pack spend most of their time in this novel in human form. It is a good murder mystery/horror novel, if a rather repulsive one; just not a very anthropomorphic one.

Corpus Lupus, first written between 1998 and 2000, has the reputation of being Phil Geusz’s “darkest and most disturbing work” (WikiFur), and it is easy to see why. The setting is a world where magic is real, but necromantic magic – involving death – is the only controllable kind.

Highridge is a narcotics detective who was bitten by a werewolf, becoming one himself. He refuses to let his condition affect him any more than possible, and is transferred to the homicide department as a specialist in investigating murders committed for necromantic purposes, to give the killer magical powers. Since the most powerful killings involve the torture and mutilation of victims, he becomes hardened to being given the police’s “sloppiest” murders, often those of young children.

Ridgecrest, CA, The Raccoon’s Bookshelf, March 2006, trade paperback * (i + 236 pages).
Birmingham, AL, Legion Printing, October 2010, hardcover $18.99, trade paperback $9.99 * (both i + 236 pages), Kindle $8.99.

Review: 'Warhead', by Ricardo Delgado

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

WarheadA dark rumpled figure sat on a subway bench next to a semi-conscious arthropod that had defecated in its pants. In a darkened corner of the moving tram, teenage crustaceans giggled like axe murderers as they passed a battered, dirty needle back and forth, injecting each other with a viscous amber liquid. Lights on the metal jalopy flickered on and off like an epileptic seizure.

Standing in the middle of the car while avoiding eye contact with anything that moved, slickly-dressed business mammals rocked with each jolt of the car as they checked their investments on shiny phones while worrying about end-of-the-year bonuses, keeping their ties straight and getting mugged. A skuzzy combination of squid and octopus shoved tentacles lined with stolen watches into the faces of whoever would look at them. (p. 10)

Right away we are plunged into the seamy underside of New Jerusalem. Well – New Jerusalem is almost nothing BUT seamy underside. The whole city is a slum beneath the floating cities of the planet Ishun, which hover serenely overhead.

Shades of Cordwainer Smith’s “The Dead Lady of Clown Town” in his Underpeople stories, with the floating elite city on Fomalhaut III and the Old City slum on the ground beneath it; or Brian Stableford’s The Realms of Tartarus, with a steel utopia built over Earth and new rat, cat, and dog people evolving on the slum surface Underworld; or Yukito Kishiro’s Gunnm, better known in America from its Battle Angel Alita anime version…


The floating cities are supposed to be for the elite, but really are not much better. Oh, they do have their polished business districts and fancy upper-class neighborhoods – but Ishun has crime everywhere. So ground-bound New Jerusalem is the real pits!

Atlanta, GA, Reliquary Press, May 2010, trade paperback $14.95 (355 pages), Kindle $2.99.

Review: 'Amberville', 'Lanceheim', and 'Tourquai', by Tim Davys

Your rating: None Average: 3.5 (4 votes)

The “Mollisan Town quartet”, by pseudonymous Swedish author Tim Davys, is (are?) four hard-boiled complex crime thrillers, each set in one of Mollisan Town’s four districts, with a stuffed-animal cast. Hey, if regular animals can be anthropomorphized, why not plushies?

AmbervilleLancheimTourquai
“Amberville” (February 2009); hardcover $19.99 (343 pages), Kindle $8.99.
“Lanceheim: A Novel” (June 2010); hardcover $21.99 (371 pages), Kindle $9.99.
“Tourquai: A Novel” (February 2011); hardcover $19.99 (325 pages), Kindle $9.99.

The first three novels were published by Albert Bonnier Förlag in Stockholm in 2007, 2008, and 2010, and published in English by HarperCollins one or two years later; all three are translated by Paul Norlen. The concluding novel, Yok, is scheduled for July 2012.

Review: 'The Unscratchables', by Cornelius Kane

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

This gritty crime novel is a parody with anthropomorphic dog and cat detectives. Oh, gee, we haven’t seen THAT before!

San Bernardo is their territory, a seething metropolis where fat-cats prance in the exclusive island enclave of Kathattan while working dogs wallow in the stinking squalor of the Kennels. (back-cover blurb)

NYC, Simon & Schuster/Scribner, July 2009, trade paperback $14.00 (259 pages), Kindle $10.99.

Review: 'A Dog Among Diplomats' and 'A Dog at Sea', by J.?L.?Englert

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These are Books 2 and 3 in Englert’s “A Bull Moose Dog Run Mystery” series. They are enjoyable enough, but not worth reviewing separately.

Review: 'A Dog About Town', by J. L. Englert

Your rating: None Average: 4.5 (2 votes)

A Dog About TownI first learned of Overton’s death upon the return of my owner to our humble walk-up apartment. I had been rereading Robert Pinsky’s excellent translation 'The Inferno of Dante', an artifact from Imogen’s time in our lives, when I heard the familiar clump-clump on the stairs and the jangle and click of locks being opened – notably more urgent than usual. I did not have time to close the book or even move too far away from it. I imagined my owner’s imminent surprise. The book would be the first thing he would notice, no doubt. The reading light that had been off when he departed would be the second. (pgs. 1-2)

On the first page, Randolph, the Labrador retriever “with a nose for murder”, establishes himself as the first-person narrator, an intellectual and erudite – and rather garrulous - dog; moreover, as a dog who is hiding his intelligence from his owner, Harry, and other humans.

NYC, Dell, June 2007, paperback $6.99 (271 pages); Kindle $6.99