This is the sixth and last Guinea PI adventure. While I still love Sasspants, Hamisher, and all their friends with all my heart, I have to say that this conclusion was somewhat disappointing.
If you haven’t encountered Sasspants and her friends previously, she is a guinea pig who loves to read and has solved quite a few mysteries (mostly against her will) at the behest of her sometimes friend, sometimes annoyance, Hamisher the hamster. In previous books she realized that she wasn’t really looking for an owner; what she prefers is to stay with all her friends in Mr. Venezi’s pet shop. Fortunately, in book five, Raining Cats and Detectives, Mr. Venezi decided not to sell his animals in the future. Mr. Venezi is confused to the point of serious head injury, but he’s been working hard on actually identifying all the animals and generally figuring out how the world works.
In this last adventure, Sasspants has hung up her detective hat and settled down to a happy life in Mr. Venezi’s store, now selling “stuff.” Unfortunately, things aren’t going so well. Mr. Venezi’s penchant for purchasing walrus toothbrushes and other strange paraphernalia is getting his shop in trouble and he’s spending more time worrying about his crush on Charlotte, the bookstore owner next door, than on his bills (he thinks they’re fan mail for the birds anyways). Then Charlotte’s daughter, Bree, becomes interested in dragons and that leads to treasure and…could there really be a dragon in Mr. Venezi’s store? Sasspants and Hamisher will have to team up one last time if they’re going to solve the mystery and save their pet family, not to mention Mr. Venezi’s livelihood. The book ends with a rather wandering section on guinea pigs and hamsters that touches on breeds, history, and etymology.
The story still has all the silly and sweet elements I’ve come to expect from Guinea PI; the hamster dramas were particularly hilarious, but what really tipped me over into annoyance territory was Mr. Venezi’s cluelessness. Over six books, all he’s really learned is a few animal names. How has he stayed in business if he thinks bills are fan letters to the birds? There doesn’t seem to be any reason for Charlotte, a successful store owner and veteran of at least one romantic relationship, to be attracted to the terminally confused Mr. Venezi. The solution felt contrived and there really wasn’t much development in the characters or plot. It felt like the author thought “well, I have to end this somehow…”
The illustrations are still, as always, charming and sweet without being sentimental. Sasspants is still sturdy and a bit of a loner, but she’s a much more friendly and happy animal, as shown in her more relaxed facial expressions and frequent smiles. Hamisher is still a little drama-hamster, but he’s relaxed a bit as well and is on a bit more equal footing with Sasspants, delightfully shown in his polite but horrified face when he looks at her artwork. Each animal has a fully developed personality that has grown over the course of the series, and they’re recognizable not just by their species and behavior, but by the personality that shows in how they’re drawn. The snake is slightly cynical and snarky, shown with quick little movements of his tail and a dip of the eyelid, and the turtle is friendly but clueless, as he moves slowly through the story, following his own trail of thoughts.
While I found the plot disappointing in this final book in the series, the series as a whole is still definitely worth purchasing for your library. I wouldn’t recommend the final book as a stand-alone, but you’ll want to read the first five books anyways. It’s a perfect series for reading aloud, for beginning readers, and for all those who love guinea pig detectives, excitable hamsters, and a little silliness.
Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye # 6: Going, Going, Dragon!
by Colleen AF Venable
Art by Stephanie Yue
Lerner Graphic Universe, 2013