Saturday, November 19, 2016

It's not about the cats

     Rebecca M. Hale. How to Wash a Cat (2008) Somebody should have edited this book. The author apparently used a thesaurus. Bad idea: If you don’t already know how to use a word, the thesaurus’s “synonyms” designation will mislead you. Hale apparently also wanted to create a complete first-person experience for the reader, for there are unnecessary adverbs and adjectives everywhere. The result is dilatory narration and irritating weirdness.
     The story begins with the death of the narrator’s uncle Oscar, a supposedly-lovable grump with a fixation on San Francisco Gold Rush history. The narrator inherits his antique store, and a historical puzzle. The mcguffin is a potion that mimics death, with possible therapeutic value; and a cache of diamonds. Many people want one or both. The narrator figures it out, trailing well behind the reader. Tunnels, veiled warnings, mysteriously unexplained help from strangers, etc, add melodrama. Hale (unfairly) IMO withholds information about some of the characters, the denouement contains a couple of surprises as well as solutions. Two cats wander around the story and the antique store.
     There’s a decent book inside this over-wrought mess. Trimming away about a third of the verbiage would have made this so-so book into a very good one. I think Hale self-published (via Green Vase Publishing – a green vase figures in the store-front renovation), and good sales prompted Penguin to buy the paperback rights. The book was a best-seller, I think because of the cats. It’s the first of a four book series; I trust that Hale had editors for the other three books. *½

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