Animal empath Pru Marlowe (Parrots Prove Deadly, 2017, etc.) uses her gifts in service of every amateur sleuth’s time-honored quest: clearing a pal suspected of murder.
Even bucolic Beauville has its share of layabouts. Paul Lanouette and fellow miscreants Albert and Ronnie spend their evenings drinking at a dive bar and their days drinking—well, wherever. After their latest private party, game warden Greg Mishka finds Albert snoozing in the woods alongside a young male black bear. The bear is trapped in a rope snare, but Albert is loose—at least until Detective Jim Creighton locks him up. Seems that Paul’s body was inside the shed Albert and his ursine companion were sleeping outside. Pru Marlowe, Beauville’s animal control officer, takes charge of Albert’s feisty ferret, Frank, who communicates not only his fear that Albert is in danger, but that something shiny is involved in Paul’s murder. Pru, who supplements her meager earnings with a bunch of dog-walking and cat-finding assignments, checks with her four-legged clients, but Marmalade (aka Reina), Bitsy (aka Growler), and Spot (aka Bunbury Bandersnatch) can tell her nothing more about either the bear or the boozer. So it’s up to Frank and his frantic, fractured ferretese to help Pru find out who killed Paul and get Albert released.
It’s hard to get noir when most of your cast is warm and furry. Simon’s latest is more likely to appeal to cozy fans than the hard-boiled crowd.