by Mitzi Szereto
Normal for Norfolk
Copyright 2012, by Mitzi Szereto
Published by Thelonius T. Bear Books
Normal for Norfolk is anything but normal, with its unflinching realism in a quiet setting marred by murder and mayhem, and coupled with an unusual protagonist—a miniscule BEAR with its name implying a colossal creature who may save the day—the first sign of irony.
Author Mitzi Szereto and her cohort and co-author, Thelonius T. Bear, wrote a marvelous story of fiction–fantasy, really; who has ever known a bear to be able to live in human character and be a detective no less!
Infused with characters possessing limited cleverness, the narrative persona gives us an in-depth account of each character’s thoughts and behaviors, moving the plot forward. The style is satire like Kurt Vonnegut or John Kennedy Toole, albeit both American writers, and while the novel is undeniably English, the framework of a general mystery genre is used while suffusing it with elements of the burlesque within an idyllic landscape, creating a consistent tension familiar with British comedy.
Everything was great for me, although I would have rather a man than the bear—sorry Thelonius. If it had been a little man, I might have had more interest in the story. On the other hand, the bear on assignment as a photojournalist was funny in a dry sort of way—imagine: the irony of a wild animal bound by traditional human parameters, contained in human qualities. His having been assigned to the project of a photo book, the little urbine creature had a propensity toward overeating and drinking one too many ales at the local pubs. It turns out he finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation and being harassed by an annoying police chief of limited mental capacity who rests his entire case on Thelonius, this tiny little bear who would not even be able to lift a body, let alone three, finals the act and discovers the murder.
The bear character did create a sort of tension with the human characters, since it was the only character walking about through each town— apparently oblivious to the wild schemes of the villagers—which we might expect of animals more than human beings. So there are all sorts of idiots with lethal intent, and a lonely, overweight and amazonian B & B Inn keeper that we presume has an interest in….the bear? Ironic indeed!
A British mystery with brassy lingo and unwitting characters, plenty of expletives, vaudeville action and complications, the reckless brothers, the dreary constable, the traveling foreigners, and the townspeople will all entertain you. This is one of my recommendations. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s constructed by an excellent writing team.