Book review: Who Sleuthed it? Edited by Lindy Cameron

Beastly tales of crime.

Animal lovers with a hankering for a good old-fashioned whodunnit will be among the first to welcome the release of Who Sleuthed It?

A self-confessed animal tragic, editor Lindy Cameron has drawn together what may be one of the most unique collections of crime-related short stories to have emerged in recent years, all of them with an animal at its heart. These 19 tales, collected from writers in Australia, Ireland, the UK, and the US have in common a playfulness often missing from the modern mystery. The book harks back to that simpler time, when a black cat perched on the windowsill of an Agatha Christie story and Skippy out-smarted criminals and out-performed lawmen to save the day in Outback Australia.

Australian content is especially high, as are Australian settings. So, while an occasional story might take the reader to London, and the traditional haunts of Scotland Yard, Cameron’s collection is just as likely to whisk the reader away to a (very topical) Sydney quarantine station during a plague outbreak in 1900, to modern-day Collingwood in Victoria, or to the beaches of Manly. The sleuths of the collection’s title are equally diverse, including the usual selection of cats and dogs, but stretching beyond that to encompass penguins, chipmunks, an owl, and a magpie (though footy fans can rest assured, that’s not part of the Collingwood story!).

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What each mystery has in common, beyond its non-human characters, and a general light-hearted touch that perhaps stems from the relative innocence of the main protagonists, is a willingness to view the human condition from a new, and often quirky perspective. It is fair to say that our pets, were they able to talk, would have some unique observations to make about the ways in which we live our everyday lives, let alone the manner in which we overcome the sorts of obstacles that are encountered in the average criminal caper.

A number of the contributions are from authors who are now expanding upon previous creations. For example, Louisa Bennett’s story, ‘When the Chips are Down,’ features Monty the golden retriever, who had previously been the star of her novels Monty Dog Detective and Monty and Me. In that sense, the collection acts as an introduction to authors that readers might like to explore in more depth.  But that too is perhaps its one failing. The stories are almost all remarkably short – ten pages is not an unusual length – and the reader may be justified feeling that the characters are only just coming to life when they have to leave them in their hutches, on their beaches, or up their cat trees, as the case may be.  Those who enjoy these brief encounters the most, are likely to regret their brevity all the more.

That being said, there is fun and fur a plenty to be had in what is, throughout, a delightful and fanciful collection, written for adults, but just as likely to appeal to younger readers.  

Just don’t put your copy down where the dog can chew it, for therein lies absolutely no mystery at all!

Who Sleuthed It? edited by Lindy Cameron
Publisher: Clan Destine Press

ISBN: 9780648848769
Format: paperback
Pages: 340pp
Release Date: 1 September 2021
RRP: $29.95

Craig Buchanan is a freelance reviewer and self-professed bookaholic based in Perth.  He has a PhD in literature from the University of Western Australia, and reading interests (both academic and personal) that range from the earliest forms of medieval story telling right up to the present, techno-centric offerings of the 21st century.  His mother always said he should play outside more, but he was too engrossed to listen then, and he’s too old to change now.