Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Book of the Week: FAIRVIEW FELINES: A NEWSPAPER MYSTERY by Michele Corriel

Greetings, Esteemed Reader. I’ve noticed these Book of the Week reviews have been getting out of hand in terms of length, so I’m going to be making a conscious effort to shorten my future reviews, starting this week. It’s nothing personal against Michele Corriel, who will be here on Thursday to face the 7 Questions. I really enjoyed her book, Fairview Felines, and if I let myself, I could fill pages with my thoughts on it. But I know you have other things to do, Esteemed Reader, so I’m going to keep this short and sweet:

Fairview Felines: A Newspaper Mystery is an excellent book and you should read it. Goodnight everybody!

Well, maybe not that short:) Though that is pretty much my review. And don’t worry, Esteemed Reader. I’ll still make time for side rambles (often about Batman) that only very loosely tie back to the subject of the book. For example, I might mention that every writer needs at least two or three, preferably more, good critique partners. Someone needs to go through your manuscript and pick at all the less-than-great bits you can’t see because the book is your baby.

As with friendship, the only way to get a good critique partner is to be a good critique partner. Writers of the world, unite (and improve each other’s writing). A good critique partner can make the difference between a book good enough to be read by friends and family and a book good enough to be read by total strangers. Michele Corriel knows the value of critique partners. Fairview Felines is dedicated in part to “Judy and Nora, the best critique partners a writer could ever have.”

An excellent book usually has an excellent opening. Here are the opening lines from Fairview Felines: Dead people, corrupt politicians, stupid burglars and your basic mischief and mayhem are what newspapers are all about. And to tell the truth, I wanted in on it. What a swell opening. It hooks the reader, introduces us to the crux of the main character, and sets the tone for the story we’re about to read. That’s quite an accomplishment for two sentences.

In this case, ‘I’ refers to Thomas Weston, an eighth grader in Fairview, Montana, who dreams of one day writing for a real newspaper. His mother runs the local paper and she lets him write for her on occasion, but Thomas wants to start a school paper. The trouble is he can’t find the same enthusiasm he has for journalism for homework and his parents won’t let him work on his passion until his grades improve. Good for them and good for Thomas.

What’s more, the principal, nicknamed Lurch, decides Thomas is right. Their school should have a paper. But Lurch isn’t going to appoint Thomas editor just because it was his idea. He holds a contest: whoever writes the best article wins the job.

Before we go any further, I’d just like to point out what an excellent choice for detective Thomas Weston is. I assume the subtitle “A Newspaper Myestery” implies there will be additional Newspaper Mysteries to come, which means that Corriel is establishing a main character not to anchor just one novel, which is difficult enough, but to anchor multiple novels. Thomas Weston is built to last.

He’s funny, he’s brave, he’s all the things a good protagonist should be, and above all, he wants something very badly and is willing to overcome obstacles to get it. Thomas wants to write a great article and is willing to solve a mystery to get the material he needs. Part of the battle in a middle grade detective novel is establishing why a young protagonist cares about solving the case.

So long as Thomas writes for his paper, he needs new articles, which means he will always have a stake in solving future mysteries. Also, the fact that he’s a journalist means he’ll constantly be out in the world collecting seemingly unrelated data and uncovering further adventure, or that adventure will find him. There’s a good reason both Clark Kent and Peter Parker work for newspapers.

However, there is a danger in making Thomas too perfect for the job and Corriel recognizes this. If Thomas were James Bond, he would be difficult to relate to, so Corriel gives him a perfectly relatable flaw. He has trouble with the tedium of school and gets poor grades. Thomas isn’t some perfect kid that the reader could never hope to be. He’s smart, but doesn’t care for homework. Well what eighth grade boy can’t relate to that?

Throughout the novel, Corriel presents us with Thomas’s thoughts written out in newspaper headlines. It’s a fun motif and goes a long way toward reinforcing who Thomas is as a character. His every thought and action are bent on being a good journalist. Here are some of my favorites:






Okay. I promised short this week, so I’ll finish the summary and we’ll call it a review.Thomas notices that the paper is filled with missing cat ads and it’s not long before his own cat disappears. Coincidence? Of course not! Certainly, Fairview is not a good place to be if you’re a cat. There are beetles who feast on the flesh of dead kitties. And there’s a man who wants to petition the local government to do something about “the cat problem.” Could that something be murder most foul? There are even rumors that local thieves are training cats to act as bait for guard dogs.

Thomas, his cousin Quinn, and his friend Leland are on the case! Fairview Felines is a lot of fun and well worth reading. If you’re looking for a good mystery or just a good book, than this one’s for you. And will you look at that? I did manage to shorten the review… at least a little:)

Don’t forget to come back Thursday when Michele Corriel will be here to face the 7 Questions. And come back Saturday when we'll ask another surprise literary agent 7 somewhat different questions. I’ll leave you now with some of my favorite passages from Fairview Felines: A Newspaper Mystery:

Miss Poe was a senior volunteer. She looked like she was about a hundred and ninety-nine years old. But her wrinkled fingers gripped me pretty hard. She really missed out on a career in WWE's Smackdown.

"Thomas, wait." My mother took me by the shoulders.  "Cherry and Elm streets are too far from here. Web wouldn't go there. Just sit down. Maybe he's found a new hiding place."
Right. A new hiding place. Like in the arms of a cat-napper!

She was allergic to almost everything--dust, fur, mold, spores, chocolate and probably rocks too--and cats, especially cats.

Lurch's office was neat as a pin. He was probably one of those types--everything perfectly in its place--a neat-freak. He probably had a white glove hidden in a drawer, to check for dusk on his shelves. I suddenly felt sorry for the custodian.

I hated it when girls started crying. It made me feel like a melted Hershey bar on the inside, all gooey and sticky. And messy.

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Book of the Week is simply the best book I happened to read in a given week. There are likely other books as good or better that I just didn’t happen to read that week. Also, all reviews here will be written to highlight a book’s positive qualities. It is my policy that if I don’t have something nice to say online, I won’t say anything at all (usually). I’ll leave you to discover the negative qualities of each week’s book on your own.


  1. You always find such great books to review. Thanks for this recommendation.

  2. Sounds like a goody. Adding it to my "to read" shelves.

  3. Boy dies of boredom during father-son lecture.

    I'm so in. Off to find me a copy.


Thanks for stopping by, Esteemed Reader! And thanks for taking the time to comment. You are awesome.