Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Nothing to Fear But Ferrets by Linda O. Johnston

After so many serious books, I went looking for lighter fare and thought that I had found it in one marked A Kendra Ballantyne Pet Sitter mystery with a cute ferret face on the front. Appearances can be sooo deceptive. The amusing cover hides a very irritating novel written in a clunky style.
The mystery itself is alright, a reality show TV star is killed in the home of another cast member and made to look as if pet ferrets have done the deed. Kendra owns the house where the murder happened, having rented it out to boost her income after losing her law license from an ethics charge frame-up. She’s turned to pet sitting to make ends meet, while living in the guest house on the grounds of her mansion. Kendra has a very strong sense of coming down in the world and continually whines about it.
She also doesn’t seem to know much about animals, which would seem a drawback in her new career. She even leaves her own dog parked in a car on a summer’s afternoon in the Los Angeles desert heat. Is this someone you’d want caring for your pets? Kendra also can’t count, saying 5 ferrets at one point, then 2 pages later 4, switching back to 5 before the novel’s end. She has a boyfriend, Jeff, a P.I. who does nothing but leave on business trips. We know he’s great in bed, but not much else about him. Likewise, pal Daryl, who runs a doggy daycare, seems to be a friend of long standing, but again, we never learn much about him. We do learn about Kendra’s height(5 ft. 5in.), her cell phone ring tone(a Bon Jovi song) and her car(Beamer), over and over again. In fact, the whole book is quite repetitive, as if the author is just killing time. Her sentences are long and filled with too many adjectives. Occasionally, she throws in some clever wordplay, such as calling umbrellas “mobile canopies”, which is just irritating.
Like most self-involved people, Kendra is very judgmental of others, with harsh physical descriptions. An elderly fellow lawyer wears a crepe blouse that has as many wrinkles as her face, not to mention a throat wattle and this is someone Kendra supposedly esteems. Let’s not mention the overweight neighbors that she accuses of “bleating” constantly. It would’ve been better had we heard more about her charges, such as Pansy the pot-bellied pig or Pythagoras the python.
The author has published other books, so she ought to be experienced enough to avoid the many mistakes she displays, not to mention sloppy writing. Did she have no editor? It’s unfortunate, since the idea of a pet sitter solving crimes is appealing, but surely it can be done better than this.

Wheeler 2005 411 pp. ISBN 1-59722-084-1

6 comments on “Nothing to Fear But Ferrets by Linda O. Johnston

  1. Moira
    July 21, 2008

    Oh dear. That’s most unfortunate.

    It’s quite a good idea for a series of novels … but it does seem a bit strange that someone should use ferrets as their central character/s (so to speak) without bothering to research them properly.

    Mind you, animals can be tricky. I remember M C Beaton saying that she had to write Hamish MacBeth’s dog out of the books because she kept forgetting to feed it …

  2. Lisa
    July 21, 2008

    Yes, I thought it was a good idea too. Might have been a tad rushed in terms of proof-reading and narrative style?

    I still like the cover, however.

  3. Lisa
    July 21, 2008

    And I might also still read it for the zany plot. Although the 5ft5 malarkey and crepe/wrinkle/obesity criticisms would annoy me.

    P.S Did the dog survive that hot car??? Would have been like an oven in minutes.

  4. Jackie
    July 21, 2008

    Yes, her dog survived being in the horribly hot car, because she rolled the window partway down. Grrrrr! That’s just irresponsible, even if it is a fictional dog. It makes people think it’s OK to do in real life.

  5. marygm
    July 22, 2008

    Ooo, this doesn’t sound good, Jackie. It does seem to me sometimes that the standards are not the same for debut writers as they are for previously published writers who have established some readership base.
    And I can understand that an animal-lover like you would have a problem with this kind of sloppiness.

  6. Caro
    July 22, 2008

    Oh dear, the dog episode doesn’t sound too great. I like the book’s quirky and funny premise, but lazy writing and lack of editing would really put me off. I sometimes think publishers are a bit cynical when it comes to light reads – as if they don’t think it’s necessary to put the work in because readers won’t notice. It’s quite disrespectful to the wide variety of intelligent people who like commercial fiction.

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This entry was posted on July 21, 2008 by in Entries by Jackie, fiction: mystery, Fiction: romance and tagged , , , .

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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