Monday, October 12, 2015

A mystery that's the cat's meow

I hadn't read a Jimmy Flannery mystery for many years until I picked up The Cat's Meow recently. Now I remember what I have been missing. Campbell, who died in 2000, wrote 11 Flannery mysteries during the 1980s and 1990s. Each of them has an animal in the title -- Hip-Deep in Alligators, Thinning the Turkey Herd, Sauce for the Goose and so forth. Flannery is a precinct captain in Chicago with a knack for solving problems, including crimes.

In The Cat's Meow, Flannery is asked to see if he can find a way to save a church cemetery that has been sold to make way for a gas station, all the bodies to be moved elsewhere. Soon he becomes involved in the problems of an elderly priest who says he still hears the meow of his dead cat. What's more, there is evidence of devil the church late at night. When the priest is found dead of an apparent accident, Flannery gets serious about finding out what is really going on in this church.

Campbell tells an interesting story, but the best part is the way he tells it, through the voice of Jimmy Flannery. Flannery's just a nice guy (if not always honest), happily married, eager to help anyone in need and someone with a gift for reading the signs in what others say and do. His grammar isn't always on target, but his insights usually are.

There are hard-boiled mysteries, and then there is the soft-boiled variety. The Cat's Meow is among the best of the latter.

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