cover image Fatlands


Sarah Dunant. O. Penzler Books, $21 (214pp) ISBN 978-1-883402-82-2

Although plenty of mystery authors are currently rounding up the usual suspects from the ranks of the animal rights movement, Dunant (Birth Marks) claims the territory for her own in this fine work, thanks principally to her sharply ironic, appealingly introspective PI, Hannah Wolfe. Hannah, who never met a bacon sandwich she didn't like, hires on to escort 14-year-old Mattie Shepherd around London on a birthday shopping spree when the teenager's father, Tom Shepherd, says he can't do the honors. It turns out that scientist Tom, whose firm uses animals in its research, has received death threats, most likely from the radical Animal Liberation Front. Then a murder draws Hannah, a quintessential street-smart city gal, to the less than gentle countryside. Dunant's crisp characters compensate for the slightly disappointing ending. Particularly appealing is Hannah, whose observations about such PI indignities as empty larders, loneliness, getting beaten up and needing to discern the thin line between good and evil are frequently funny, occasionally poignant and always insightful. (Nov.)