Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Brouhaha in the Belfry

Bouncer the dog and Maurice the cat are back again trying to keep their master, the Rev. F.O. Oughterard, out of trouble in Suzette A. Hill's book Bones in the Belfry, the second in the series featuring the characters. In the previous book, A Load of Old Bones, Rev. Oughterard was placed in a precarious position by a rather rash crime he committed. It was up to Bouncer and Maurice, who alternated telling the tale with the vicar, to keep him out of prison.

All of the characters are back in this version, with the vicar once again in hot water. Due to his fumbling attempts at covering up his crime in the last book, he'd had to call on an acquaintance from his past, the shifty Nicholas Ingaza, for an alibi. Nicholas complied, but felt that he was due something in return. This book begins with Nicholas depositing two large, hideously ugly paintings with the Reverend "for the time being." The two paintings are soon in the news as being very valuable and (naturally) stolen.

The Reverend must attempt to hide the paintings until they are claimed again. After a great struggle, they are deposited in the belfry, but the arrival of mystery novelist Maud Tubbly Pole puts an end to that hiding place. She wants a tour of the belfry as research for her upcoming novel. The Reverend then takes the paintings to his sister's house for safekeeping, but she is also an artist and ends up inadvertently donating one of the paintings to a charity event.

The rest of the novel is a narration of the Reverend desperately attempting to get the painting back, as well as offload them on Nicholas again as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the cat and dog do little more than narrate in this book. They do manage to head off another of Ms. Tubbly Pole's tour requests: to visit the site of the crime from the earlier novel. Other than that small service, however, they are relegated to spectators in this novel.

I preferred the first novel in the series, due to the dog and cat having more to do. This book had some comic episodes, but I felt it was a bit too outlandish in its resolution. Still, when you're reading a book featuring narration from a dog and a cat, I suppose you have to be prepared to suspend disbelief for a while.

Final Verdict for Bones in the Belfry: Two Gherkins, for being an enjoyable, if somewhat inferior sequel

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