Fans of Cronin’s first J.J. Tully mystery, The Trouble with Chickens (2011), will welcome the return of retired search-and-rescue dog J.J. Tully, mother hen Moosh and her four chicks in this follow-up adventure.
The plot unfolds smoothly, ensuring that those unfamiliar with the first volume won’t have trouble tracking the action, but readers are likely to enjoy the silliness even more if they’re already familiar with the continuing cast of characters. This time around, there’s a hint of romance with the sudden appearance of a lovely purebred in the neighborhood. Distracted by the dame (and prone to overestimating his own intelligence), J.J. spends some time swapping stories with “Diamond Lil” and misreads the situation entirely. So it takes him a while to figure out the connection between the lovely Lillian and an opossum that has been sniffing around the henhouse. With a little help from last volume’s villain, Vince-the-Funnel, J.J. finally solves the mystery of Lillian’s past. Meanwhile, Moosh matter-of-factly solves the possum problem, smoothing the way to a happy ending for all concerned. Cronin parodies the snappy dialogue and world-weary insouciance of classic noir detectives perfectly while keeping the text accessible for her intended audience. Cornell’s black-and-white illustrations add to the humor and expand the personalities of Cronin’s kooky crew.
Here’s hoping J.J. and company find more to puzzle over pronto. (Comic mystery. 8-11)