Winter is hard in Beauville, where the melting snow can reveal much more than last season’s dead leaves. So when a wealthy, obnoxious tourist and his ski bunny girlfriend surface in Pru Marlowe’s little Berkshire town, she knows she should stay out of their way. The bad-girl animal psychic has to focus on more immediate concerns, including a wild rabbit named Henry, supposedly tamed and illegally living with an eighty-four-year-old lady in her home. Henry, who seems to be acting out and hiding, avoids responding to Pru.
Yet when Pru discovers the tourist murdered and his girlfriend’s high-maintenance spaniel falls to her care, she gets dragged into a complicated case of crime and punishment that involves some new friends, an old nemesis, and her own shadowed past. A recent museum art heist draws the feds into the investigation along with a courtly gentleman radiating menace, who represents secretive business interests in New York and shows a surprising awareness of Pru. Her on-again, off-again romance with police Detective Creighton doesn’t stop him from warning her to steer clear of the inquiry. The spaniel, however, lures her in.
Pru lives in a world where only her crotchety tabby Wallis knows the whole truth about her past, her flight from Manhattan, and her unique gift that surfaced abruptly one day. Fearing the worst, Pru now comes dangerously close to being exposed. With everything in motion, Pru, Wallis, and everyone they hold dear will be lucky to escape…by a hare.
About the Author
Clea Simon is the author of the Pru Marlowe, Dulcie Schwartz, and Theda Krakow mystery series, as well as three nonfiction books. A former journalist, she lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, with her husband Jon and their cat Musetta.
Read an Excerpt
When Bunnies Go Bad
A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir
By Clea Simon
Poisoned Pen PressCopyright © 2016 Clea Simon
All rights reserved.
There are many uses for a knife, and just then I wasn't thinking of my steak. In fact, I was letting a perfectly good T-bone grow cold, white droplets of fat solidifying on the plate. My appetite — normally quite healthy, thank you very much — had been quashed. Not by that fat. I'm a carnivore, and cholesterol comes with the territory. But by another useless waste of space. The large, obnoxious diner at the next table.
"What's the matter?" He wasn't talking to me. If he'd dared to glance over, he'd have known better than to take that tone with me. "You're the one who wanted to come here."
I couldn't see the face of the woman he was addressing. Just the back of her rich auburn hair, head bowed low. I'd seen her when they came in, though. Wondered at first if she was his daughter, so perky and bright — a shiny brass penny next to his dull, dark mound.
Dull dark dollars, most likely. The man with the suspiciously thick black mane had started in on the maitre d' right away, complaining about the parking and the conditions of the road. We don't do valet parking here in Beauville. This time of year, we're lucky to get through. And that was the next problem. Hardware — Main Street's nicest eatery — was packed. This was the first Saturday in five without a major storm, the latest thaw seemed to be holding, and a bunch of us had had the same idea. March in Massachusetts, as the worst winter anyone could remember ground to a halt, and we all had cabin fever. When Jim Creighton, my main squeeze, had called to say he'd snagged a table, I didn't hesitate. Too much time on my own had made me a little crazy, and Hardware's grub was better than anything I could manage on my own. Only Mister Money, here, didn't get it. He'd graced the little café with his presence, and he let it be known that this commanded star treatment.
"That's it?" Right from the start, he'd been trouble, looking at the two-top by the window as if it were dirt. He didn't realize how lucky he was to get it. "Don't you know who I am?"
Maybe the maitre d' did. At any rate, he'd had the sense to make the kind of low, soothing noises I'd use on any irate animal. But even the double martini — "Ketel One, I'll know" — hadn't made things easier.
"Get this out of here." He'd grabbed the waiter as he came by — with our steaks, mind you — handing him the bread basket.
"Sir, the brioche is a —" He didn't get a chance to finish.
"Cheryl here has the self-control of an alley cat." He nodded to his date. I couldn't see her face, but I'd bet it was as red as her hair. "Going to be as fat as one, too, she keeps this up. And get me another one of these." With his other hand, he waved his cocktail glass, sloshing the remaining contents onto the floor. "She'll have water."
The waiter had nodded, grabbing the offending basket as soon as he'd placed our plates. The service professions are used to jerks like these, and the best you can do is defuse them.
"Teddy ..." I heard her plea. The TV over the bar was on — this was Beauville, after all — but the sound was low enough for conversation. Underneath its sweet entreaty, her voice was tense. A combination of embarrassment and rage, I thought. I would have inclined toward the latter. "Baby, please ..."
Creighton saw me lean forward and smiled, a bit rueful. He couldn't blame me for eavesdropping, not after that display. Everyone in the place had heard that exchange. One beefy dude had even turned from the tube and was frankly staring, the news — some suits at a podium — less interesting than the drama up close. It didn't matter. The woman had dropped her voice below what I could pick up. But if I couldn't hear the rest, Jim did, his grin spreading across his face.
"You find that kind of thing amusing?" I speared a hunk of meat, and addressed my own date, keeping my voice low. "You think I should make all nicey-nice when you're in a mood?"
"Wouldn't dream of it." Creighton kept his eyes on his own plate, wise man, though his dimples did give him away. "How's your steak?"
"Quite tasty, thank you," I replied as he refilled my wineglass. As I've said, Creighton is a smart man, and a lot better mannered then the big guy at the bar.
The TV had switched focus to a painting — a woodland scene, with a rabbit in the foreground. The caption read "TRAIL GOES COLD." But before I could ask my beau about it, he sat up with a start, bottle still in hand.
"Teddy, baby ..." The woman behind him sounded near tears. That wasn't what Creighton was responding to, though, as he stood and started to turn.
"Excuse me, sir." He had on his cop voice. I put my cutlery down. "You can't speak to a woman like that —"
"She's my concern." The red-faced man wasn't backing down. "Bought and paid for, and if you think I'll be taken by a little ski bunny that way —"
"Please." The redhead was standing now, too. Facing Creighton with her hands up in a placating gesture and eyes big with tears. "Please, sir. I'm sorry. This was my fault."
"Come on, Cheryl." Teddy slammed a twenty down on the table and started to leave.
"You don't have to go with him, Miss." Creighton can be old school. "We'd be happy to escort you anywhere."
"No, I — I do." Her voice was a stage whisper, the pleading note in it hard to miss. "He's not usually like this."
Ducking past the waiter, who had arrived with the second martini, she trotted after her date in impossibly high heels. Between her gait and the short fur jacket she had grabbed from the maitre d', she did evoke a bunny. Though a wild rabbit, like the one in that painting, would have more sense than to follow a wolf out into the dark.
"Well, that's not going to end well." Creighton craned to watch her hop away after her date before reclaiming his seat.
"Maybe she'll get fed up." I topped off his glass, willing the evening back toward normal. "The bunny turns, and all that."
"Maybe." With a shrug, he tore into his steak, and our conversation moved on to more congenial topics: the wine, my latest client. Over at the bar, the story had shifted, too — the stolen painting replaced by a celebrity divorce. I knew the scene was weighing on my guy, though, much as it stayed with me. None of us likes to see one human dominate another, and the tired formula of a moneyed older man using his wealth to manipulate a beautiful young woman was as depressing as the month-old snowbanks.
Neither of us wanted to see that couple again, though Beauville is small enough that I suspected we would. Neither of us knew that would happen as soon as the next morning, or that Cheryl the ski bunny would be the obvious suspect when Teddy Rhinecrest was found dead, stabbed in the front hallway of his Beauville love nest.CHAPTER 2
I should have known I'd run into him again. After all, one of my gigs here in this hick town is de facto pest control.
I should explain. I'm not an exterminator. I've got little love for vermin of any species, and less sympathy for the human kind than most others. And I live in an omnivorous world, where predator and prey have been doing the survival polka for eons — and will be, long after I've become food for whatever organism finally gets me.
But the mice in your pantry? They're just trying to get through the winter, and if you're going to provide shelter and a good supply of edibles, well, they're smart enough to take advantage. No, I'm not the gal you call to lay down poison or traps.
Partly, that's 'cause I've got a sensitivity — a gift, some might call it — that makes this kind of one-sided slaughter particularly painful. You see, I can hear what animals are thinking. Not what they're saying, per se. They don't talk to me, like some Doctor Doolittle fantasy. No, what I have is the ability to eavesdrop on other species like I did on that mismatched couple. And like with that couple, I don't always get everything — every word or thought. What I can usually glean is what an animal is feeling: the fear, the lust, the hunger. The pain, too, if I let myself — which is why I won't wittingly allow myself to be the cause of it. But it does help me deal with the various creatures that my fellow citizens here in Beauville interact with on a daily basis. Because I can usually figure out what they really want — or why they're scared or acting a certain way — I can intervene. Make peace, even. Not that I'd want any of my human colleagues knowing how I get my results.
This time out, I'd been called because of the rabbits. Well, Ronnie didn't call them that, not exactly. What he said was that there was a problem out at The Pines. And since his job is to take care of problems, he did what he does best — he called someone else.
I should explain. Ronnie is a caretaker. Not in the sense of a nurturing person — more like a glorified janitor. Through some old high school connections — Beauville being, as I have said, a small town — he'd gotten himself hired at the new development. Condos — townhouses — thrown up in a hurry before the crash and now largely rented out to vacationers as eager for privacy as for the smell of evergreens. Set back in the woods, The Pines featured condos angled so that none of the entrances faced each other. Despite the fancy cedar shingles, the construction had been so shoddy that I was sure the occupants could hear each other, loud and clear. But then the development was usually half empty, so maybe that didn't matter much.
As caretaker, Ronnie was jack of all trades there — plumber, carpenter, and groundsman. When the job wasn't too complicated, I suspected he acted as the resident electrician, too, though I didn't like to think about that. It wasn't that he was industrious — far from it — but he knew that he'd been hired by the owners because he was local and he was cheap. Besides, the residents were primarily out-of-towners. City folk, and that meant they tipped. So when he phoned Albert, our local animal control officer, asking for me, I knew he had a real problem.
"It's one of the renters. He's been complaining about rodents. Said rats were eating through his wires. He could hear them." Ronnie said when I took the phone. I'd dropped by Albert's office hoping for some work. It's nice to be treated, but a girl likes to be able to buy her own steak sometimes. "I've already done some repairs for him."
I'd kept my mouth shut. Rabbits were more likely than rats, out here. But if the place had been built properly, a hungry rodent or two wouldn't have been a problem. Besides, this late in the season, I was feeling the pinch — and the folks who stayed at The Pines could pay.
"Will you be around later today?" That was all I asked. I'd learn more about what was going on by checking it out myself than through anything Ronnie could tell me. Beauville men tended to fall into one of two camps: smart and shifty, like Mack — my ex — or big and dumb, like his buddies Vince and Earl, who both tended to think with their fists. My father had been the former. From him, I get my brains, as well as my taste for bourbon. Ronnie was the latter, as was his buddy Albert, although both were too lazy or too stupid to get in much trouble. But also unlikely to think through a problem by themselves. Which was good in that it meant more work for me. Yeah, there was a reason I was with Jim Creighton.
"Uh, not too late?" Of course, Ronnie and Albert were drinking buddies too.
"Before happy hour." I hung up and turned around, quickly enough to watch Albert blush and sputter. It might not yet be spring, and my jeans were nowhere near as tight as that ski bunny's, but Albert is a simple animal. Not that I cared about his response.
"Frank here?" I eyed Albert's down vest, which would be part of his wardrobe until July. "I didn't see him when I came in."
"Oh, yeah." He looked relieved that I'd asked a question he could answer. "He's here." A fumble with his desk drawers, and the masked triangular head of a ferret popped up. Frank, nominally Albert's pet, reached two pale paws up to the desk top and began furiously sniffing the air.
"What's up? Where's it hidden? Who's there?" The pink nose twitched as the curious little beast caught up on the news.
"Have you been keeping him locked up in there?" As I turned on Albert, I tried to query the poor ferret. "Has he?" I asked silently, visualizing Albert locking the small creature away in the metal desk. It didn't help my temper.
"No sense in fighting." The ferret fixed his black eyes on me, his advice forming into words in my head. "None at all."
"What? No." Albert pushed his chair back, as if afraid I would lunge. It wasn't a bad reaction on his part, and for a moment I was distracted. It's good to know I can inspire fear. "He's just — he's been acting weird lately. Kind of — frisky."
That turned my attention back to Frank, who by now had climbed to the desk top, and the strong sense I was getting from him — a feeling I could only translate as "make love, not war."
"Well, spring is in the air," I said out loud as another thought hit me. "Frank's not neutered, is he?"
"I — uh — I don't know." The round patches of cheek visible above the beard turned scarlet as Albert turned away. "He — maybe — at the shelter ..."
"Got it." I hadn't known how the fat animal control officer and his sleek pet had first hooked up. There was no point in beating up on Albert, though. I do try to be gentle with dumb animals, and so I knelt in front of the desk. In the guise of making nice with a cute pet, I'd have a chance to greet the only other intelligent creature in the room.
"What's up, Frank?" I held out my hand for him to sniff, a move as polite as it was wise. Frank's sharp nose and even sharper eyes had frequently provided insight into my life.
"Dog, dog, that cat again ..." His busy nose trembled over my fingers. I'd started my day with my usual dog-walking gigs, but underneath it all, I had no doubt the ferret was picking up the scent of Wallis, the tabby who shares my life. "Wait, wait ...a bunny?"
That one surprised me, and I could feel the smile starting. It didn't matter. Albert would think I was amused by his pet. In truth, I was impressed. I hadn't noticed any rabbits this morning. But before I'd gone out to meet Growler, the bichon with whom I had a standing date, I had made a lame attempt at dismantling the snowbank beside my front porch. It was shrinking, but not quickly enough, and the forsythia peeking through was looking bent and battered. What remained had melted and refrozen often enough to be nearly solid: a dense reminder of the winter mess. There had been a handful of small brown pellets on top of the snow — the local rabbits had found my poor forsythia, too.
"Yeah, rabbits." I kept my voice low. Albert was keeping his distance, but I couldn't take any chances. My reputation was shaky enough in this town without talk about me communing with a ferret. "Just trying to get by, I figure."
"This is a dangerous season." The black button eyes looked up at me. "Not everyone survives."
* * *
I took the mustelid's words to heart as I drove over to the condos. Driving is one of the great pleasures of my life. The chief consolation for leaving behind the city and returning to the small town of my birth was trading in the subway for a '74 GTO with a retro engine and a custom paint job. And while I've reconciled myself to the added expense that my baby blue baby costs in gas and maintenance, I have to constantly remind myself that my muscle car wasn't made with modern safety features — or designed to handle the black ice that invariably followed a thaw. So, as much as I wanted to open her up, let that massive engine roar, I held back — at least on the shadowed streets — as I made my way over to meet Ronnie and his rats.
"Hey, Pru!" I found him in front of the development office. Tall and heavy, he complemented the build of an autumn bear with the personal style of the awkward teen he must have been some two decades before. As he looked up, I wondered once again how someone who spends so much of his time outdoors could have such an unhealthy complexion. Some of it seemed to be a blush. I'd startled him, as he was digging through the work box in the back of his pickup. Looking for cigs, most likely, or maybe something more potent, from the way he stood with a start. As long as he wasn't feeding anything to an animal, I didn't much care. "You're early."
Excerpted from When Bunnies Go Bad by Clea Simon. Copyright © 2016 Clea Simon. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
“This quirky series has a devoted following among the Animal Planet crowd, and the unique premise has its own appeal.” -Booklist
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Pru Marlowe is back in Cea Simon’s latest adventure When Bunnies Go Bad. Living in a winter wonderland can take its toll on the locals. But when an overbearing tourist arrives with his hot girlfriend things go from cabin fever to murder faster than a skier down the mountain. After an altercation in the town’s hotspot over his meal, Teddy berates the staff and his date. The couple leaves in a flurry to go back to the condo they are renting for their get-away. When Teddy winds up dead, it appears that he is not only obnoxious, but may be dabbling in business that was more dangerous than cheating on his wife. Enter Pru’s boyfriend and local cop Jim Creighton. He is afraid a local mobster may have something to do with the murder. As the case progresses, things become more dangerous and Creighton heedlessly warns Pru to stay out of police business. But of course she is knee deep in the case and not about to climb out now. In her own defense, she had to help with the dead man’s dog because his girlfriend can’t handle the cute little spaniel with a stupid name. Pru is aching to help the little dog as well as talk to him to find out if he knows about the murder. It helps having the ability to hear what animals are saying when you are an amateur sleuth. Even if it gets you in trouble with your cop boyfriend. Simon spins a great mystery full of humor to temper the murder. The twists and turns keep readers guessing until the final pages. I love the characters she has created. The humans are great, Pru is funny, sharp witted and can be sarcastic and abrupt. Her moods and personality make her come alive on the pages. I feel the real stars of the book are the animals that interact with Pru. From the birds, squirrels and mice to the dogs, cats and the illegal pet bunny’ Simon creates fabulously entertaining dialog in Pru’s head that is shared with the reader. If you have ever wondered what your pets are thinking, you need to read this series. It will hopefully prevent anyone from naming a pet something that the animal cringes at each time he is called. I highly suggest this fun cozy mystery series. When Bunnies Go Bad is the sixth book in the Pru Marlow Pet Noir series, but easily reads as a stand-alone novel if you want to read it first. Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.
After a long, cold winter Pru Marlowe finds herself wanting to be out enjoying every bit of sunshine she can find but she is not the only one. When a rude rich tourist, Teddy Rhinecrest, comes into town with his much younger ski bunny girlfriend, Pru hopes to stay out of their way until their little vacation is done and they go on their way. However, when Pru stumbles across the dead body of this rich tourist she can’t help but find herself in the middle of another small town mystery. A simple ski trip to the extremely tiny town of Beauville seems a harmless getaway but as details start to surface about the former Teddy Rhinecrest and his red headed girlfriend it turns out they were involved with some very dangerous characters. On top of getting mixed up in this current web of mysteries Pru also has to keep her current clients happy, even if there are only a few of them. Luckily she also has the chance to work for a new client and of course Pru never turns down the opportunity to add to her client list. When Pru finds out what kind of animal this lady has she is not so sure she is the right person for the job, as this lady is keeping a wild cottontail rabbit illegally in her home. Pru’s secret skill to communicate with animals works well with domestic pets but it is a whole other ballgame to communicate with a wild animal. At least there is one person in town that Pru has come to trust and rely on but even her beau, Jim Creighton, seems to be acting strange with this case making Pru think that perhaps her trust in him is not the best idea. As always the clues will slowly piece together as Pru listens closely to the animals around her and takes what they know to heart. After seeing that Clea Simon had come out with another Pru Marlowe mystery I was excited about scooping it up as I have read a couple of her books before and have enjoyed the fun and exciting stories. However, I do have to admit that I was a little disappointed in this most recent book of hers. The start of When Bunnies Go Bad was promising as Simon set up what seemed to be another fun and intriguing small town mystery but unfortunately there was never a point where the story turned exciting. In her other books there was a moment where I caught myself holding my breath but with this book I was consistently waiting for that moment and it never came. I have come to love the characters and plot in this series but this particular book just wasn’t one of my favorites. Quill says: Unfortunately a mystery with an absence of excitement and suspense.
Clea Simon’s books are truly exemplary mysteries that skillfully capture the intricate relationship shared by humans and animals. Pru Marlowe has an easier time relating to animals than to her fellow humans. Her cat Wallis is more of a confidante than her lover Detective Creighton. Past experience has made her wary of becoming too close to others, and she fears what would happen if people discover her ability to communicate with animals. Like her cat Wallis, she is prickly and somewhat secretive, but she has a broad streak of curiosity and an immense compassion for animals. After her discovery of the body of a rich but obnoxious tourist, Pru’s one concern is for the dog she heard barking. As the police didn’t find the dog, Pru searches the nearby forest. It is through Pudgy (Stewie) that she is drawn in to investigating the murder. The main suspect is his ski bunny girlfriend Cheryl. Pru gets her information from those no-one else can, but the information isn’t clear. The murder is tied to the theft of an extremely valuable painting, and both the feds and the mob are looking to collect. With the feds taking over, Creighton is sidelined for the duration. Furthermore a charming but extremely dangerous man has returned to Beauville and has his own interest in the situation. There is a fine line between predator and prey and Pru fears what may come. The Pru Marlowe novels only get better with time and When Bunnies Go Bad is a terrific addition to the series. Each time I’m faced with one of Clea Simon’s books I take the time to savor it. Wallis, Growler, Frank, and the other animals are fascinating to observe. If you love animals but are looking for something one step beyond the common pet cozy, pick up one of Clea Simon’s books. You will be glad you did. 5/5 I received a copy of When Bunnies Go Bad from the publisher and netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review. —Crittermom
Pru Marlowe can hear what animals are thinking? Shades of Dr. Doolittle come to my mind, and I wasn't too far off. Not the most original premise, but Ms. Simon did give us murder, romance and an art heist. FTC Full Disclosure - A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
If you enjoy mystery thrillers written with a great sense of humour as well as some paranormal ability added for good measure then look no further! Take a single lady who can hear what animals are thinking, add in a murder where the killer needs identifying and some animal witnesses and you're certainly in for a treat in this, the latest in the Pru Marlowe series. The writer not only has a community of great human characters, many of whom appeared in earlier novels, but also some amazing animal ones, too! What makes this a unique mystery style is the role the animals, especially Pru's cat, Wallis, have in aiding Pru in her investigations. The exploration of relationships between humans as well as between animals and humans is insightfully portrayed in a credible and easy to relate to manner that makes the whole novel a truly delightfully different and enthralling read, one I have no hesitation in highly recommending. The humour as well as the clues to be deciphered are engaging, adding laugh out loud moments to a macabre investigation where people aren't always quite as they like to be seen by other humans and sometimes it is only the clues from Pru's animal contacts that help to reveal all in this well paced murder mystery. Thanks to the author, publishers and NetGalley, too, for letting me read an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Title: When Bunnies Go Bad - Pru Marlowe Pet Noir 6 Author: Clea Simon Published: 2-1-16 Publisher: Poison Pen Press Pages: 247 Genre: Mystery, Thrillers & Suspense Sub Genre: Cozy Mystery; Amateur Sleuths ISBN: 9781464205220 ASIN: B01G9VURU Reviewer: DelAnne Reviewed For: NetGalley . Pru Marlowe has a psychic connection with animals in that she can hear their thoughts. She may not always understand what they other cat Wallis are trying to tell her correctly, she usually gets the gist of it. She would prefer this ability not to become common Knowledge. She and Wallis make a funny crime solving duo. Pru is asked to bring in a semi-tamed wild rabbit that is named Henry. Henry avoids capture and lets Pru know he wants a forever home. When she discovers the body of a visiting obnoxious and disliked tourist, Teddy Rhinehurst it does not improve her day, especially since she had been hired to work with his girlfriend's spaniel to help train him. Pru and her love interest Detective Creighton investigate the death, but with so many suspects it will not be easy. Pru's overactive curiosity may get more than the cat killed if she is not careful. Delightful, funny, and endearing are just a few words I want to use to describe When Bunnies Go Bad. This is the first book in this series I have read. It easily reads as a standalone, but I had so much fun reading this story I want to go back and read the others from the beginning. Just to see how it all started and how the relationships in the series came into being and developed. I love a good cozy and Clea Simon seems to have a knack for writing one of the best. The characters are well developed and unique and you get to know them, flaws and good points as well. Come and get to know Pru and friends, you will soon come to love them and want to visit them often.
This is book #6 in the Pru Marlowe Pet Noir Series & so far one of my favorites. The title refers to both a wild rabbit illegally living with an elderly woman & a murdered "mobster's" snow-bunny girlfriend. Both Pru & her beau Detective Jim Creighton are extremely likable characters. I love Pru's ability to communicate with animals, & Creighton is becoming more important to Pru in each book. As for the murder mystery, the reader is given a despicable victim to dislike & plenty of suspects with motive. At the same time we are privy to the pet duties Pru performs daily. I especially liked her interactions with Bitsy, aka Growler. For a little dog he has quite a big attitude. I definitely enjoyed reading this book & without giving away any spoilers, the ending has me quite intrigued!