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).


Farthest North

Nansen, Dr. Fridtjof. Farthest North: the Incredible Three-Year Voyage to the Frozen Latitudes of the North. Edited by Jon Krakauer. New York: Modern Library, 1999.

Reason read: Peary’s birth month is in May. From one traveler to another…

Nansen’s journey, from June 24th, 1893 to April 7th, 1895, took him to the farthest reaches of the North Pole. Blessed with the support of the Norwegian government and the King of Norway, Nansen set sail with ample provisions, able men and strong sled dogs. Farthest North is Nansen’s first person account of the adventure, complete with journal entries and fantastic photography and drawings. A word of warning to the animal lovers: Nansen’s no-nonsense approach to killing various animals is harsh. I had a hard time with how he described shooting a curious seal.
Aside from his expedition, Nansen was a fascinating character. He invented a new type of sled for traversing the Arctic terrain. He was a biologist who worked with nature. His theory for success was to allow his ship, the Fram, to become trapped in the ice. The Fram was built to withstand the pressures of the ice floes and move with the fluctuations so as not to be torn apart. However, while Nansen was smart about the construction of the Fram, he was not so clever concerning the rising tides that ended up swamping his boats at one point of the expedition.
To keep busy during the ice entrapment, Nansen established a music factory, repairing much loved instruments. By default, Nansen’s love of forward progress transferred to his crew. To keep busy for the sake of industry, when the ship’s doctor didn’t have patients to see he set up a book binding business to care for the well used library.
Even though he failed to reach the true North Pole Nansen was the first one to cross Greenland successfully.

As an aside, I love a scientist who uses the technical word, “ugh.”

Favorite lines, “A good library was of great importance to an expedition like ours, and thanks to publishers and friends, both in our own and in other countries, we were very well supplied in this respect” (p 33), and “You can hear the vibrations of your own nerves” (p 228).

Author fact: Nansen won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with displaced victims of World War I. He was considered a great humanitarian.

Book trivia: Farthest North includes a biography of Nansen as well as an introduction to the text by Roland Huntford and three maps of Franz Josef Land.

Nancy said: Pearl said Farthest North would “fit the bill for armchair travelers” (p 233).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “To the Ends of the Earth: North and South (the Arctic)” (p 233).


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).


Barchester Towers

Trollope, Anthony. Barchester Towers. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2005.

Reason read: to continue the series started in April in honor of Trollope’s birth month.

I will be 100% honest. I couldn’t get into Barchester Towers despite the fact it’s supposed to be Trollope’s most popular novel and many organizations have it on their “Top 1000 books to read.” Yes, it is satirical and it has it humorous parts. I just couldn’t get into any of the characters. I suspect my lack of enthusiasm centers around the fact the novel is focused on religion and the war between the high and low churches. The bishop has died and a new one needs to be appointed. There’s a lot of infighting about how that will be resolved.
The best element of Barchester Towers is the return of Septimus Harding. His daughter, Eleanor, is now a widow and eligible to remarry. The second best character was Mr. Stanhope, a member of the clergy. He has been in Italy for twelve years “recovering” from a sore throat and catching butterflies.

Quote I liked, “They had never, therefore, poured into each others ears their hopes and loves…” (p 252).

Author fact: According to Pearl, Trollope was a postman by day and an author in his spare time. He wrote whenever he could.

Book trivia: My copy contained both The Warden and Barchester Towers.

Nancy said: Pearl’s favorite Trollope is the entire Barchester series.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Barsetshire and Beyond” (p 15).


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).


Morbid Taste for Bones

Peters, Ellis. Morbid Taste for Bones. New York: Warner Books, 1994.

Reason read: the first Thursday in May is the start of Prayer Week.

Morbid Taste for Bones is the first book in the Cadfael Chronicles. In a nutshell: Prior Robert is looking a saint for his abbey. The abbey is in dire need of some reputable relics and not finding anything within his region Prior Robert has the idea to branch out to Wales. He has heard of a saint buried in Gwytherin where her ghost claimed in a dream mistreatment and neglect of her grave. She requests a burial elsewhere. Of course there is drama when Robert and a crew of support show up to exhume her. Words are exchanged but because of the late hour both parties agree to take up the argument the next day. The new day brings a fresh murder. Only Cadfael recognizes the death for what is truly was, a framing of an innocent man. This always happens when there is a love triangle. Read the book for more…

Author fact: Ellis Peters is the pen name of Edith Mary Pargeter.

Book trivia: The Cadfael Chronicles were adapted for television in 1996.

Nancy said: Pearl calls Morbid Taste for Bones one of her favorites. She includes it in the Book Lust section of amateur detectives (when the true occupation is something else). In More Book Lust she says Morbid Taste for Bones is “a pleasurable way to learn about British history” and that the best “pure mysteries featuring a member of the clergy are those by Ellis Peters (More Book Lust p 87).

BookLust Twist: from both Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 117) and More Book Lust in the chapter called “Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers: the Family of the Clergy” (p 86). As an aside, this last chapter always reminds me of Natalie’s Tiny Desk Concert with NPR when she teaches the staff to sing “Weeping Pilgrim.”