I found this book during a stop at Boswell Books in Milwaukee, WI, my favorite independent bookshop ever in this country, and maybe beyond. This matters because it turns out one of the authors works there as a bookseller; there are 2 authors who together use the name Juneau Black I didn’t get an autograph though because she was in the middle of something when I was there, but maybe next time.
So, Shady Hollow is nominally a murder mystery, classified as the cozy sort. The mystery itself isn’t terribly unusual or even the point of the story; it’s about the characters and their interactions. The interesting thing is that Shady Hollow is populated by a variety of woodland creatures. The heroine/detective is Vera Vixen the fox, who is a reporter for the Shady Hollow Herald. Her best friend is Leonore Lee (a raven) the owner of the local murder mystery bookshop, and the local policeman she works with/antagonizes slightly is Deputy Orville, a brown bear who dreams of being chief one day. Other residents include the mysterious Sun Li, panda and owner of the local restaurant, Joe the moose and proprietor of the local coffee shop, the Von Beaverpelts beaver owners of the local sawmill, Ruby Ewing, a black sheep in the literal and metaphorical senses, and of course, the (minor spoiler) first victim, local crankpot Otto Stumpf (a toad).
Even the characters fit their general types according to most every small town set cozy murder mystery ever written; what’s fun about this one is how the animal attributes fit into the character types, and how they all vary slightly from what you’d guess. Joe the coffee-shop owner moose is big and methodical, but he’s also pretty quiet (if you’ve ever been camping and had a moose “sneak up” on your tent, you know they are not the most quite of animals as they move around), he gets up early to open shop, and he knows everything about what’s going on because the coffee shop is the center for local hanging out and gossiping. Vera is a fox, but she’s not terribly cunning or sneaky; she’s actually a pretty good investigator, but she really is a reporter who just wants to do her job well. Howard Chitters is the mouse accountant for the sawmill, and as expected he’s timid and jittery, but as it turns out he also has ambitions and dreams of bigger things for himself (and his family).
There’s already a sequel out, and I’ll be picking that up on my way back through town (assuming I can time it right; if not, then order it). Here’s to more fable/mystery/entertainment to come!