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Tourquai: A Novel (Mollisan Town) Hardcover – Bargain Price, February 15, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
The pseudonymous Davys's third crime spoof to feature stuffed animals who behave just like humans (after Lanceheim) might have benefited from characters the reader can care more about as well as more humor. Insp. Falcon Ècu and his partner, Anna Lynx, accompany Mollisan Town's Supt. Larry Bloodhound to a crime scene in Tourquai, where Oswald Vulture's head has been sliced off and apparently carried away by the evildoer. If Larry and his team find the missing head of the deeply disliked "finance vulture," it can be reattached and Oswald resurrected. The pace picks up after Philip Mouse, a PI pal of Larry's, begins sniffing around in what becomes a standard police procedural. Plush suspects include Jake Golden Retriever, an art forger working for slippery gallery owner Igor Panda; eccentric inventor Oleg Earwig; Oswald's society wife, Irina Flamingo; and Oswald's mistress, Jasmine Squirrel; but the "killer" is an eye-winking surprise. (Mar.)
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The Mollisan Town quartet, of which this is the third installment, is an uneven adventure. The basic conceit—that all the characters are stuffed animals—worked to wonderful effect in Amberville (2009), a mystery with metaphysical undertones. (Why would factories make stuffed animals when they’re destined to be destroyed?) But Lanceheim (2010) was a disappointment, a plodding religious allegory whose revelations were mundane. And now we have Tourquai, another mystery, in which a disliked, venture-capitalist vulture is beheaded while sitting at his desk. The police—Larry Bloodhound, Falcon Ècu, and Anna Lynx—try to determine who had the most to gain: sultry secretary Emanuelle Cobra, the mysterious Jasmine Squirrel, or Igor Panda, trafficker in forged paintings? There is still some pleasure in exploring the pseudonymous Davys’ world and pondering the peculiar biology of its denizens. But does using stuffed animals as characters make for a better book? In Amberville, it did. In Lanceheim, it didn’t disguise a lack of invention. And here it’s mere upholstery on a moderately satisfying mystery. One wonders, mildly, what’s in store for the finale, Yok. --Keir Graff
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But Vulture is leaving behind a lot of money and that's good news for a number of people, all of which are checked out by the police. There is also a further story line, that of Igor Panda who does all kinds of illegal things in order to get money, which he badly needs (or he might end up headless too - he has money lenders after him).
I really enjoyed reading this story. It reminded me of a classic mystery story and it was fluently written. Because of the stuffed animals and the way they did some things slightly different from people, the story was also funny and quirky.
No, I didn't mind the stuffed animals at all. At first, I was a bit wary of a story that had stuffed animals as characters (there are no people in the book at all). However, since the animals behave so much like people, it was really like reading about people, but with the extra fun of them being stuffed animals.
There were some red herrings in the book that weren't stuffed! I'm referring to the tactic of misleading the reader into thinking a particular story line was going to lead to the killer, while this turned out to be a total dead end. In fact, the persons and information that were relevant to solving the murder only came into play at the end of the book.
I felt a bit tricked by that and I didn't like it. But my overall experience of this book was good. Enjoyable until (almost) the end.
The three cops quickly find suspects that have the threads of the police ripping apart. Sexy secretary Emmanuelle Cobra, art connoisseur and hooligan Igor Panda, Oleg Earwig the inventor, and enigmatic Jasmine Squirrel all had motives though opportunity remains unclear. The inquiry fails to turn seamless as the detectives are unable to knit together the clues; instead, the case turns convoluted as forgeries, prostitution, and a traveling casino make the three sleuths want to pull out their threads.
The third Mollison Town stuffed animal polis procedural (see Amberville and Lanceheim) is a whimsical satire that is at its best when the personification lampoons human foibles. The whodunit is a fun locked room mystery but very linear and obvious. Still in spite of the cuteness of the premise the Mollison Town tales target adults who enjoy something different in their investigative thrillers.
Mollisan Town is comprised of four former municipalities that have merged together to form one city, though each retains its own identity as a neighborhood. The names of these areas comprise a title for each of the four volumes in the series, which include the previously published AMBERVILLE and LANCEHEIM, and the forthcoming YOK. The core of each book also deals with a concept. The first two concerned good and evil, while the latest focuses on the issue of faith. At its heart, though, is a classic mystery of the almost (but not quite) locked-room variety.
Oswald Vulture, a wealthy venture capitalist, is found beheaded in his office. There is no sign of a murder weapon or forced entry, and, worse, his head is nowhere to be found. This latter point is significant; if Vulture's head is located within an amount of time --- determined on a case-by-case basis by an agency known as The Chauffeurs --- it can be re-attached and Vulture will be (almost) as good as new.
It seems that there is no lack of individuals, involved in the incident or otherwise, who hope that Vulture's head remains separated from his body, even as Police Superintendent Larry Bloodhound goes through the dyspeptic motions of figuring things out. He is aided in the process by the members of his law enforcement team, which consists of Anna Lynx and Falcon Ecu, along with his unlikely friend Philip Mouse, a private detective who keeps his finger on the pulse of the street.
Naturally, everyone has their own problems. Bloodhound has impulse control issues and a secret at home. Lynx is a single mother who is perhaps too eager to interfere in her best friend's marriage. Ecu is finding it difficult to establish lasting relationships, not only with his associates but also with his wardrobe. Nonetheless, they pursue a number of likely suspects, including Emanuelle Cobra, the victim's secretary; Jasmine Squirrel, his mistress; Igor Panda, an unscrupulous art dealer with an unexpected tie to Vulture; and Oleg Earwig, an inventor who Vulture may have conned, albeit perfectly legally, out of a fortune. As unique as the whole concept of Mollisan Town may be, Davys never goes for too long without reminding you that there is indeed a murder mystery at the heart of all of this, one that will keep you guessing almost until the end. Actually, that's not quite accurate, but you are going to have to read the book to find out precisely what I mean by "accurate."
TOURQUAI, mystery notwithstanding, does not fit easily into a particular genre --- there's even a bit of kink in here that is quite interesting, stuffed animals or not --- but if you're willing to jump into it feet first and get acclimated for a few pages, you'll be rewarded. And you may feel a bit uneasy when you come to realize that in some ways the world of Mollisan Town seems every bit as real as our own.
--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub