As you all know, over the last week I’ve been reading Rebecca M. Hale’s How to Wash a Cat. I love reading mysteries, and so I was surprised and delighted to have drawn a new one out of The Hat last week. How to Wash a Cat is Ms. Hale’s debut novel, and the first book in her Cat’s and Curios series. Not only was I happy to have a new mystery to read, I was intrigued by the fact that it was centered around an antique store (I love antiques) and that the main character had two cats who were also central to the story (I have four cats).
Synopsis: The main character’s Uncle Oscar has just passed away under mysterious circumstances and upon his death she inherits his antique shop, The Green Vase, which is filled with the relics of San Francisco’s Gold Rush Era. Odd acquaintances and neighbors of Oscar’s come crawling out of the wood-work all offering bits of help and advice, but the main character can’t help but wonder if there is something behind these seemingly good-willed offers. She also starts receiving strange items that Oscar has left for her relating to the strange life and death of a San Franciscan tycoon over a hundred years before. What is Oscar trying to tell her from beyond the grave, and can she unravel the mystery before someone else beats her to it?
Review: First, the good stuff. Hale is a great writer, to an extent. Her descriptions are vivid and very real. Her supporting characters are well-developed and likeable, or suspicious, or intriguing depending. I loved the setting, and the obvious mystery you would expect to find in any old city with such a turbulent history. The obvious mystery you expect to find waiting for you in the dusty corners of an antique shop. Reading this book was a lot like walking along the aisles of a nice, junky little antique store and breathing in the air that is musty and heavy with a sense of history. Like picking up an object and wondering what stories it could tell you of those who had owned it before. This book had such a good feeling like that, and an atmosphere that sucked you in and made you long to run off to your nearest junk shop.
The supporting characters were really something, I particularly liked the main character’s peculiar and pompous neighbor Monty. He was a great side-kick, and the comic relief for the story. An attorney named Miranda is kind of fierce and vicious, while her mother is eccentric and wonderful! Frank, one of the main character’s neighbors, is suitably suspicious and kind of shady, as are several of the other characters.
Now for what I didn’t like. In most mystery novels the author presents you with the quandary early, and the rest of the book is spent bringing you to the inevitable conclusion of said mystery. Not the case in this book. Even after finishing it, I wasn’t sure exactly what the whole mystery was supposed to be. Was it her uncle’s death? Was it some aspect of the hundred years gone tycoon’s life? What was her motivation? WHAT were they trying to find throughout the whole thing? Even when things wrap-up at the end I wasn’t really sure, it was such a let down. Second, the main character, who also narrates the book, doesn’t have a name. Or any physical description. Or any kind of character traits whatsoever. I found this irksome throughout the whole book. It might as well have been written about Monty and not the main character at all. The last thing, there was a mullet. One of the characters, Ivan, is supposed to be oh-so-yummy-super-hot, and he has a mullet. I can’t help it, I just hate them.
Rating: 3 1/2 bookies!
So now let’s see what The Hat has in store for us next shall we? I’m reaching in deep this time….. And it’s…..
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift! Sweetness! I’ve wanted to read this for a while, just never gotten around to it. And this gives me just the most perfect excuse to see the new film adaptation starring Jack Black. If you’d like to read along you can buy a new copy of Gulliver’s Travels Here or a used copy Here.
Until next time, keep reading! And remember, I’m always looking for new recommendations for The Hat!