REVIEW: Henry Oxshott by Simon Fraser
It is the 1980s. Henry Oxshott is a cat of medium intelligence, lazy but well bred. He lives in a flat which was left to him by one of his relatives who spent most of her time buying antiques and paintings which now fill the flat. He has no job, no income and is down to his last few pounds. His flat is dirty and needs to be cleaned, so when the local cleaning company over the services of a cleaner for free he jumps at the chance.
The cleaner turns out to be Finch a bulldog, ex-Army, honest, older and wiser than Henry. Finch’s arrival coincides with a letter from solicitors acting on the estate of Henry’s deceased Uncle Bartholomew (a famous explorer). At the reading of the will a mysterious and beautiful cat called Daphne appears, as well as Henry’s other Uncle, the nasty and greedy Uncle Crispin. To everyone’s surprise Daphne inherits Yews Hall, the family ancestral home in Sussex. Uncle Crispin makes a mysterious reference to a painting but all he inherits is a walking stick. Henry gets given a Bible.
With Finch’s help, Henry decodes a message in the Bible suggesting that his real bequest is at Yews Hall. With great excitement, they embark on a treasure hunt like no other and do battle with dark forces to find the real prize, which all along is hidden in plain sight.
Dear Mr. Fraser,
The cover of this book caught my eye because … cat but what else is there? A dog and a mongoose safe cracker? Okay this I had to check out. I see this was written for the 7-11 year old market which would explain all the thumbnail descriptions about things from the 1980s and earlier that most of that generation would consider ancient history or not know about at all. A time when no one had personal mobile phones?? Using Finch to explain all about Meissen china or Turner paintings to slightly clueless Henry was brilliant.
Henry and Finch sort of reminded me of Bertie and Jeeves though not so funny while the plot brought in a bit of the East London criminal element crossed with “Lovejoy.” Even though it’s not too much of a secret what might happen, it’s still fun to watch the set up and the take down. Plus Henry really does need a minder and Finch is the perfect bulldog to try and keep him out of trouble or danger. The resolution of the heist is well done and while not pulse pounding, it delivers a satisfying “well done” feeling at the end.
I did notice a few minor issues. Most of the time “paw” was substituted for “hand” though not always and the image of Henry’s ancestors riding to hounds at the country estate struck an odd note in a book with all people parts filled with animals. They actually hunted foxes? But these weren’t deal breakers and as Henry and Finch have committed themselves to helping the lovely white cat Daphne with another issue that is, as of the end of this book, undone, I hope we will see more of this world. B-/C+