The Burglar by Thomas Perry

Thank you to Netgalley, Grove Atlantic/Mysterious Press, and Thomas Perry for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for my honest opinion. Quotations may not reflect the final published book.

Elle has spent most of her life surviving through her wits and what she could steal. She now makes her living burglarizing expensive homes in Bel Air and Beverley Hills. Skillful and smart, she’s never been arrested or noticed, and few people know her profession. But one morning, she broke into the wrong house. Instead of finding cash, guns, and jewelry, she found three dead bodies, naked in a pile on the bed. What’s more, a video camera had been recording and captured her entering the room. Elle stole the camera, thinking she was protecting herself. Instead, she became a target–but she didn’t know if she was being chased by the police or a more sinister organization. To save herself, she has to solve the murders before she becomes the next victim.

Having the burglar as a protagonist in a murder mystery is interesting and offers some new and exciting approaches to crime solving. However, at times, the descriptions of Elle’s process are a little too detailed. The book is very fast-paced and got my heart rate pumping, especially in the first third of the book. I could hardly put it down last night to go to sleep. It was like reading an action movie, and one tense moment led to another, complete with car chases, double-crosses, secret cameras, and near-misses with the police.

With all the details of casing a house, entering, and finding valuables, not to mention surveillance of characters, I feel thoroughly paranoid now!

Elle is an interesting character. Raised by her grandmother who seems like she was a manipulative sort, Elle was forced to go out on her own when she was fourteen, and she has few family ties left. She’s extremely self-reliant, hyper-aware, physically fit, and an expert burglar. Sometimes, she takes unnecessary risks that seem out of character. In the first chapter, she describes walking a friend’s dog in the neighborhoods she’s targeting so she will know where the dogs live and then avoid breaking into those houses. Yet, she runs to danger several times after she begins her investigation into the murders. Though she clearly is an accomplished thief, she has so many other abilities, it stretches the imagination. She is able to use a welding torch and do simple electrical wiring. Though she does at one point admit that her overconfidence put her best friend into harm’s way, she doesn’t become more reflective of her limitations or the wisdom of her actions.

At times, I didn’t like the writing style. Too many paragraphs had sentences that began with “She…” instead of offering variety in the language. When Elle listed items, she ended with “or something…” more than ten times. There isn’t much dialogue–Elle works alone–but the dialogue in the book is a little clunky, as are some of the sentences. “She would never have considered going where she was going in any other circumstances,” for example, could have been written more clearly. While much of the book is told in the third-person from Elle’s point of view, in explaining the crime and wrapping up the narrative, the author shifts to omniscient point of view which I found slightly jarring.

For a quick read that approaches mysteries in a different way, though, this book is entertaining. A perfect pool-side novel.

Doodled Cats by Gemma Correll

Thank you to Netgalley, Quarto Publishing Group, and Gemma Correll for providing an electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

After having so much fun with my copy of Doodled Dogs, I wanted to check out Doodled Cats as well. This book is worth purchasing just for Gemma Correll’s drawings which are so funny and display so much personality. With just a few strokes, Correll can make cats happy, sad, snarky, or content.

The format and structure of Doodled Cats and Doodled Dogs is similar. Doodled Cats has four parts–Part I: All About Cats (the cat-toid spread is very wry but I learned some new information about cats, too), Part II: Doodled Cats Step by Step, Part III: It’s a Cat’s World, and Part IV: Cat Doodle Templates. The Bonus Project describes how to make a doodled cat coffee mug and is the same bonus project in Doodled Dogs.

My favorite section presents the step-by-step drawings. Correll has written instructions paired with drawings, and in each drawing what you are supposed to do is in red and what was done in a previous stage is in black. The instructions are easy to follow and definitely fun. Even though I am an atrocious artist, my doodled cats have a cuteness about them. (But boy, the Sphynx was hard for me!)

Sample doodles show cats in hats, cats in clothing, anthropomorphic cats, cats doing activities, and, of course, cats in boxes! Several pages have “plain” cat doodles so that you can decorate them with the accessories or patterns you choose.

In pages that make me laugh out loud, Correll collects classic cat-dog illustrations paired with perfectly hilarious captions. Perhaps my favorite has one of Correll’s famous pugs saying to a cat in earmuffs, “Will you be my girlfriend?” “Can’t hear you,” replies the cat.

I have purchased several how-to art books, and Correll’s are the only ones I’ve read where I’ve had lots of fun with the text and activities. Doodled Cats is perfect for so many people: Gemma Correll fans, cat lovers, and people who enjoy doodling/zentangle books.