Monday, August 18, 2008

Nine Lives to Murder by Marian Babson

Winstanley Fortescue takes a trip down Kafka lane, but instead of a cockroach, he turns into a cat or rather trades bodies with a cat, Montmorency (Monty) D. Mousa. Fortescue is somewhat of a bigshot in England's theatre scene, Monty is the resident mouser of Chesterton Theatre. Winstanley inadvertently falls on Monty, tends to happen when one is pushed, and they literally butt heads and trade places. Now Winstanley is caught in Monty's body and Monty is caught in Winstanley's body, but they try to make the most of the situation. Winstanley tries to find out who tried to kill him, or his body at least, not just on the stage, but in the hospital, and later in the theatre. His list of suspects is not short by any means, his current wife, his ex-wife, one of his mistresses, his son, a critic, his manager, or someone else. The distinct advantage Winstanley has being in the body of the cat is people talk freely in front of him and he learns who really loves him, who's using him, and what a cad he could be and how to appreciate the feelings of others. On top of his recent transformation, the show must still go on. Luckily or not, dependent on point of view, Monty has adapted to his new body and eagerly steps into the role of Winstanly Forescue, Actor at Large. The results are successful and hilarious. In the end, Winstanley finds the culprit, both switch to the right body, and they live happily ever after.

This was a delightful read. Babson wrote the transformation from human to cat and cat to human very well. Even though it was far-reaching, it had an element of believability. Babson created her world and situation and stuck to those rules. The mystery also had a good twist and the characters were characters themselves. From lovable to dislikable to serious and outright funny. I'm not sure how close she kept to the theatre antics, but the story is very well crafted.

There were four books in between Nine Lives to Murder and The Winter Garden Mystery. I was so infuriated with them, I didn't bother finishing them. When I read a mystery or a cozy, I read to enjoy the story. Not all cozies are well-written, but some are down right sloppy and I refuse to accept that. The main character is either too egotistical and feels s/he is the only person in the entire world who can solve the crime (police be damned!) and take it upon him/herself to get to the bottom of things or plain lucky. Either way, it usually involves the person getting into danger. One thing I do expect when I read a cozy is a story that is well-written. One of those books has introduced a new pet peeve for me: Parenthesis. Don't get me wrong, parenthesis have a place, like any form of grammar, but not every other sentence or whole fricking paragraphs! After a while I'm wondering what am I reading, a mystery or a story with a body thrown in so the author could pass it off to the agent or editor. It's almost paramount to cheating and I find it insulting. True, I don't read cozies just for the murder, but for characters and how craftily the writer can drop clues and how clever I am. It's a genre I would like to be published in one day, so I study these books with a fine tooth comb. When I do enter the arena, I want to make sure I don't make these mistakes: Egotistical characters, bad writing, inane dialogue, stale characters, weak mysteries, and preposterous scenarios. Despite cozies not being taken seriously, there are still standards The four books I abandoned had those elements and I will drop an author or series in a heartbeat; there are too many books to read and enjoy.

7 comments:

Amanda said...

I don't normally read mysteries, but this actually sounds like an interesting book. So the transition and the figuring out how to live in another species's body is well done? Realistic enough?

Christina said...

The transition is the human and cat hit one another in the forehead, apparently hard enough to cause a personality transfer through the frontal lobe, according to Winstanley. It's an adjustment for both, but Babson only goes in depth with Winstanley's adjustment. Babson decided to give the appearance that Monty the cat was smart and able to adapt, though getting used to walking on two legs took some major adjusting. It takes him a while and he still had difficulties, many of which turn out to be hilarious, primarily speech because Monty uses the memory of Winstanley's past performances so he'll say the strangest things in the strangest accents. Yet with the personalities switched, the bodies's instincts are still intact. For example, Winstanley struggles with Monty's body's instinct to hunt mice and take catnaps.

So to answer your question, yes, the book was realistic enough. Babson put a lot of thought into this and I was quite pleased with the results.

Amanda said...

The more I think about it, the more this sounds like a good book for me to try in this genre, since I've never read many. And since I'm almost almost almost done with the most difficult book I've ever read, I think maybe having an easy book off might help.

Is this your own copy? if so, might I borrow it at the next Semmes meeting? I don't know what your policies are on acquaintences borrowing books, and if you'd prefer not, that's fine, I can always order it from the library, but I thought I'd ask. :)

Christina said...

It's a quick, light read. It's my own copy and you're welcome to borrow it. I'll take it with me next week.

Amanda said...

Thanks!

hamilcar barca said...

cozy. now there's a new noun for me.

did you ever read anything by Jill Churchill? i picked up one of her books called "Silence of the Hams". with a clever title like that, i was sure i'd enjoy it. boy was i wrong.

Christina said...

"cozy" means a murder mystery where the murder usually occurs "off-stage." There's a murder involved, but none of the blood and guts, aka, Murder, She Wrote or some of the PBS murder specials, maybe even Sherlock Holmes. It usually takes place in a suburban setting (usually New England background) and it's supposed to be low on cursing or anything considered to be bad form, except for the murder, of course. Not all cozies are written equal. There are many I'm not attracted to or drop because I don't like the author's style of writing.

Haven't read Jill Churchill, maybe one day, who knows...