Sunday, September 15, 2019

Book Review: The Girl in the Green Raincoat (Laura Lippman, dogs, bed rest)

The Girl in the Green Raincoat, by Laura Lippman (William Morrow, 193 pages, 2011, $13.99)

She’s Back! And Shorter!

Our lovely local* Laura Lippman/Tess Monaghan is back in this novella, first appearing in the New York Times magazine! (We had mistakenly thought this was a new title.)

And so Begins. . . .

“I am being held hostage. . . The agenda is unclear. The demands vague but she is prepared to hold me here for two months. Twelve weeks or eighteen years, depending on how you look at it.”

And so begins, a la Rear Window, a novella in which we find our protagonist on bed rest for the last two months of her pregnancy trying to solve a murder or murders that may or may not have happened.

We Love Baltimore, But, . . . .

Well, not sure we all do love Baltimore (perhaps not even Mr. Trump), but we have lived nearby long enough that we are fairly familiar with the city. Enough so that we recognize when Lippman mentions BG&E and Hopkins and the Helmand (an Afghan restaurant owned by a brother of the former leader of Afghanistan), Carroll County and Annapolis, the town. Familiar and comfortable. Lippman is not a name-dropper but carefully weaves in the neighborhoods of Baltimore so the Charm City becomes a character in her novels as well.

Where are the Dogs?

Central. Yes, there is a Dobie, and a Grey and even a biting foster (found) IG**
who takes over and uses a chamber pot (I kid you not!) but, in the end, turns out to love the baby and so, he, Dempsey (dog), is accepted.

Gotta Love Whitney

My favorite character plays a larger role in this story, one of a dozen Tess Monaghan books and three short stories. Whitney, very very wealthy Whitney, is assigned to room with Tess in college and they become unlikely best buddies. Whitney currently lives in a cottage on her parents’ estate and chairs the family foundation at 35, after having held three jobs in about a dozen years. Whitney is a down-to-earth little rich girl – fascinating. In The Girl in the Green Raincoat, Whitney plays a large role as Tess’ assistant (the feet) in solving the crime, the crime that they solved almost by accident since it was not the one they thought it was.

Writer’s Style

We’ve read a lot of Lippman over the years but as boyfriend Crow became more and more of a “main squeeze,” we veered away from the Tess books.

However, Lippman has deservedly won all the major crime story awards in the industry and rightly so. The Green Raincoat opening is magnetic (see above), her writing style is comfortable, funny in places, and it accelerates - plus the reader learns a bit about Baltimore (but not enough to want to visit, taking after our president).

I would suggest you read this book rather quickly since there are a lot of characters at least mentioned that you might only recall by name time after time. In addition, though we loved a shorter Lippman, we felt it accelerated too quickly to the climax – and the after-climax may be lost on all but the die-hard fans. In other words, the book could have been even shorter.

All in All

Welcome "back," Tess!

*Graduate of Wilde Lake High School, Columbia, MD where I would have attended
**a Doberman Pinscher, a Greyhound, and a (small) Italian Greyhound

Caveat: Although DogEvals purchased The Girl in the Green Raincoat from the wonderful used book store next to the DMV on Dobbin in Columbia, MD, it is also available at the Howard County, MD, public libraries.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Book Review: Please Don't Feed the Mayor (border collie, romance, Oregon)

Please Don’t Feed the Mayor, by sue pethick [sic] (Kensington Publishing Corp., 2019, 274 pages, $9.95)

Have you read a kid’s book lately? Maybe one for 8 year-olds? A book that goes so slowly you, an adult, simply can’t stand the dragged out pace, a book that you absolutely know how it is going to end but wish it were about 10 times shorter than it is? A book that starts each chapter with a seeming summary of the previous one? A book that goes over every point and every thought of the two protagonists ad infinitum?

That’s how we felt about Please Don’t Feed the Mayor.

The Plot

Fossett (pronounced, Faucet), Oregon, is a dying town since the lumber mill closed. As a publicity stunt, Melanie, the proprietor of Fossett’s coffee shop – the Ground Central - decides the town needs a mayor and a canine one to boot – specifically her border collie, Shep.

She calls upon her ex, an attorney in Portland, to help make the election legal but why does he arrive in Fossett to run Shep’s campaign in person and why a campaign anyway since nearly the entire town loves Shep?

80% of the way through, Shep finally wins the election (it takes only one sentence while the build-up takes a couple hundred pages) but a kidnapping ensues and I had to stay up til well past midnight to finish the final 50 pages.

So, if we were to diagram the plot, it would be a line with a slope ever so small until it slowly increases to a fast pace before running out of room on the page.

The Questions

Will Melanie and Bryce reconcile? Will Shep accept Bryce? What (who) is Bryce deathly afraid of and why is he hiding from that person? Who will win the election – Shep or a guy nobody likes (but he is a human)?

Why does Shep the dog put Bryce the attorney through trial after trial? Why can’t they bond? Is it because “Bryce had experience raising dogs. They were pack animals, quick to fall in line behind the alpha. Once Bryce showed him who was boss, the rest would be smooth sailing.”

Can a dog in Fossett really get a job as a greeter in a café?

Cute Turns

However, there are some cute episodes that the reader will not anticipate – a bee sting, a (contrived) injury on a walk in the woods causing Bryce to carry Shep the dog several miles back to the car. But there are also some episodes that merely fall flat and are drawn out (but better left out).

Character Development?

Please Don’t Feed the Mayor is not exactly a romance novel of the bodice-ripper kind but definitely a chick-flick novel - plus both characters talk and think alike.

Cute cover, though, which is probably what drew us to read and review Please Don’t Feed the Mayor.
However, the human people in the book like blue [sic] cheese salad dressing.

On the other hand, Melanie probably uses the correct method of having Shep gather in the goats. Goats?

However, some details about the military were a bit off. Etc.

Fainting Goats?

Fainting goats are so preposterous that we had to google them and they do seem to exist! Score one for the author.

Boomer’s Bucket List

Perhaps you are familiar with bucket lists or even Boomer’s Bucket List. Or even have a bucket list yourself. We purchased Boomer a couple of years ago, probably because of the cute golden retriever-type dog on the cover, but promptly buried Boomer in the books yet to read and review. And now, after our experience with Mayor, we will most likely donate Boomer when we do locate it in our stacks.

The first three chapters of Boomer are a book-end bonus in Mayor. We chuckled when we read that Boomer is a Lab/retriever mix, as if Labrador Retriever was not a breed in and of itself. Hmmmm, wonder how a Labrador Retriever can be mixed with a retriever? 

And to pick up something in a store in Chicago while your dog is tied up outside? Really? In this day and age?


Author Sue Pethick (or sue pethick [sic]) is a good writer with a streak of creative humor and a plot that is eventually interesting (after a couple of hundred pages). And there is a niche out there for her readers who like dogs and slow romances. Unfortunately, one never really gets to know the dog and one has probably picked up the book, thinking it is primarily about a dog.

Oh, well, back to the drawing board to read another. . . .