Because of the Cats

Freeling, Nicholas. Because of the Cats. New York: Penguin Books, 1963.

Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of May 15th – May 21st being Police Week.

Whenever an author takes you on a journey to describe the landscape I always imagine a giant bird flying over the land. For the first few pages of Because of the Cats you get that same sensation. The reader looks down on the bigger picture of where the story takes place, this time in the small town of Bloemendaal. It is a simple place usually bereft of crime. Chief Inspector Piet Van der Valk is back on the case when a rash of burglaries escalates to rape in his jurisdiction. As Chief Inspector of the Morals and Children department his focus turns to a group of teens from Bloemendaal. This seems impossible as the town is virtually crime free and all of the suspects are rich. Why would they need to commit break-ins? Why? Because of the cats!
Because prostitution is legal in Amsterdam, law enforcement have a different relationship with the ladies of the night. Van der Valk allows Fedora to pick him up and bring him home for dinner. He even tells her, “You don’t bother my morals” (p 17). Pay attention to this woman for she is essential to the case.

The first reference to cats is when one of the rapists declares, “the cats won’t like it” (p 11).

Quote I liked, “It was, he knew from experience, fatal to fall in love with a theory” (p 25).

Author fact: when Love in Amsterdam was published and it became a success, Freeling said he was able to stop cooking other people’s dinners.

Book trivia: Because of the Cats was made into a Dutch-Belgium movie in 1973.

Nancy said: Pearl admitted Because of the Cats was one of the best mysteries because she admitted to feeling creeped-out when she finished it. If you can remember the sensation long after you have finished the book, that’s the sign of a good plot.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 119).


Bear Comes Home

Zabor, Rafi. The Bear Comes Home. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1979.

Reason read: May is Music month.

In a nutshell:The Bear Comes Home is a story about a talking, walking, pants-wearing, saxophone-playing bear. Wrap your brain around that for a moment and then consider this: the bear is an avid reader, talks philosophy and emotionally and physically loves a woman. I knew from the inside flap this book was going to be an interesting read, especially when I read, “a vexed, physically passionate and anatomically correct inter-species love affair with a beautiful woman named Iris.” Um. Okay. It’s the “anatomically correct” piece that really puts it into perspective. But! Trust me when I say this is a deep book. I mean deeeep. Zabor is a little long winded when it comes to subjects he is passionate about. There are pages and page about jazz music and the musicians who perfected it, but somehow the entire thing works. The Bear is a little too angsty but considering his circumstances, stuck in the human world, who could blame him?

As an aside, I have two Natalie connections to this book. This time “Dancing Bear” from Leave Your Sleep (of course) and the mention of the song “But Not For Me” which Natalie has covered.
Another aside, I loved, loved, loved the musical references. Mention of Prince’s Black Album made me swoon (been missing him a lot lately).

Line to like, “It had to do with the heaviness of obsession” (p 363).

Author fact: Zabor is a musician as well as an author. Obviously.

Book trivia: Bear Comes Home features a few real life musicians. Obviously. Another piece of trivia: it won the PEN Faulkner award.

Nancy said: Pearl said Bear Comes Home is a “slightly different take on music in fiction” (Book Lust p 164).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Music and Musicians” (p 164).


“Shadow Show”

Simak, Clifford. “Shadow Show.” Strangers in the Universe. New York: Berkley Publishing, 1950.

Reason read: June is National Short Story Month.

The show of life must go on, even though one of the key actors has passed away. Bayard Lodge, Chief of Life Team 3 with psychologist Kent Forester, must figure out how to keep their play going. Much back and forth debate is given to the question of who did the dead man embody? What was his part? Just who would be missing from the group? Unfortunately, the end was predictable but it was entertaining read all the same.

Author fact: Simak won awards for his short stories but none for the ones I am reading for the Challenge.

Book trivia: Strangers in the Universe is a very thematic book.

Nancy said: Pearl considers “Shadow Show” one of Simak’s best and shouldn’t be missed.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).


Master and Commander

O’Brian, Patrick. Master and Commander. Read by John Lee. Santa Ana, CA: Books on Tape, Inc., 1991.

Reason read: for my dad. He was born in the month of May and he loved stories about sea adventures.

For starters, Master and Commander is an excellent lesson in naval warships. The dense nautical terminology will make your eyes go dry if you let it. There are many areas where the plot and dialogue altogether cease making it an arid read. Amidst the didactic seagoing vessel lesson 19th century Britain is at war with France’s brash Napoleon. Young Jack Aubrey has been promoted to commander of the sloop Sophie. Along as his right hand man is Doctor Stephen Maturin. He acts as ship medic and surgeon and together they fight enemies on the high seas. Aubrey and Maturin are as different as they come but they balance each other out and truly need one another. Their relationship is the cornerstone of the whole series.
For every adventurer Master and Commander is a must read. Every battle is played out in stunning detail. Life on a man-of-war could not be any more vivid.

Author fact: Patrick O’Brian was born Richard Patrick Russ.

Book trivia: Master and Commander is first in the series and definitely should be read before any of the others in the series.

Nancy said: Pearl called Master and Commander an “archetypal oceangoing adventure…[one] that [is] well loved by both men and women, and by those readers who have spent time on boats as well as those who have never set foot in a seagoing vessal on even stepped into a rowboat, kayak , or canoe.” She also mentioned O’Brian’s “reliable historical detail and evocative writing” (Book Lust p 217).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Sea Stories” (p 217).


“The Answers”

Simak, Clifford. “The Answers.” Strangers in the Universe. New York: Berkley Publishing, 1950.

Reason read: June is National Short Story Month.

The Dog, the Human, the Spider and the Globe are exploring an abandoned village. They had stumbled upon it quite by accident and the discovery took them by surprise, especially the Human. So much so that he decides to stay behind. The ever loyal Dog leaves him some provisions, including his own food. The role reversal is telling.

Quote I liked, “There was more to the human race than gadgetry” (p 103).

Author fact: Simak won three Hugo Awards and a Nebula.

Book trivia: Strangers in the Universe was Simak’s first collection of short stories.

Nancy said: Pearl said Simak’s short stories shouldn’t be missed. She mentions “The Answers” as one of his best.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).


Love in Amsterdam

Freeling, Nicholas. Love in Amsterdam. New York: Harper & Row, 1962.

Reason read: Police Week is May 15th – 20th…or something like that.

When we meet first Martin he has already been locked up for two weeks for allegedly murdering his ex-lover, Elsa.
In the first sections of Love in Amsterdam Inspector Van der Valk is an unusual cop with unorthodox methods of investigation. It is up to him to solve the crime and I have to admit, he is the most interesting part of the whole story. His philosophy this: it doesn’t matter whether Martin says or believes he is innocent or if he is in fact guilty as all get out. Inspector Van der Valk is going to let Martin into his confidences and listen to every rambling theory. He is going to allow Martin in on every part of the detailed investigation because the more he and Martin spend together the more the truth will emerge. Sooner or later Inspector Van der Valk will get his man. It is an unusual way to go about solving a crime, allowing his best suspect to be an active part of the investigation, but it works.
The second part of Love in Amsterdam is all about Martin’s past revealing motive for the murder: how he knew the victim, the subsequent relationship they had, and how it all fell apart in the end. Is this section supposed to cast doubt on Martin’s innocence?
The final section is a frantic wrapping up of the case. The murderer is revealed and Inspector Van der Valk gets his man.
Stanley Ellin said it best when he described Love in Amsterdam as having “the sinister, spellbinding perfection of a cobra uncoiling.” That is definitely true for the first part of the story.

Quotes to quote, “Dead bodies are not frightening nor are they communicative” (p 21) and “Professor Comenius watched everything with slightly protuberant, healthy lobster eyes” (p 142).

Author fact: Freeling was British, lived in Holland, and died in France.

Book trivia: Love in Amsterdam was Freeling’s first book. It was made into a television show for the BBC as well.

Nancy said: Pearl said “Freeling’s psychological mysteries…remain a classic of the genre” ( Book Lust p 120).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 117).


History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews…

Fielding, Henry. The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews and His Friend Mr. Abraham Adams. Edited by R.F. Brissenden. London: Penguin, 1977.

Reason read: I needed a epistolary novel for the Portland Public Library 2019 Reading Challenge. Pearl said this was epistolary when it is not.

Joseph Andrews starts off as a parable of the Good Samaritan with chastity and charity the central themes. Main character Joseph Andrews is a footman for Lady Booby. When her husband dies suddenly, Joseph is forced to ward off her amorous advances. In an effort to get away from Mrs. Booby Joseph travels to see his true love, Fanny. Along the way he is robbed and beaten but no one wants to help him. Sound familiar? It seems as if Fielding is fixated on responding to Samuel Richardson’s Pamela. There are other ties to Pamela. Fielding makes Pamela the brother of Joseph.
Along Joseph’s journey is accompanied by tutor and pastor Mr. Adams. A large chunk of History of the Adventures is Parson Adams’s adventures.
As an aside, what is up with all the goofy names? Mrs. Slipslop, Mrs. Booby, Tow-Wouse, Peter Pounce, Gaffar and Gammar Andrews, to name a few.

Quotes to quote, “The law makes us provide for too many already” (p 29) and “Riches can set any man above the law” (p 59).

Author fact: So. I was reading the author biography in the Penguin edition of Joseph Andrews and was shocked to read, “he attempted to abduct an heiress” (p). What the what?! A more benign fact is that Fielding started his writing career as a satirical poet.

Book trivia: Joseph Andrews was written ten months after Shamela and was supposed to be a comic epic poem.

Nancy said: Shamela is part of Joseph Andrews. What I think she meant to say is that they are more often than not published together in the same volume. Shamela was published first. Joseph Andrews came later and is not epistolary in nature.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Epistolary Novels: Take a Letter” (p 79). In Book Lust it is indexed as just Joseph Andrews and not with the full title.