My spring vacation was actually during the second week of April, but I received this book in the mail on the Friday of that week so it was the last one I got around to enjoying. And enjoy it I did!
We've talked about The Red Panda before. A product of Decoder Ring Theater, the bulk of The Red Panda's adventures can be heard, rather than read. They are told in audio files similar to the Shadow or Green Hornet radio shows from the 30's and 40's.
Crime Cabal is the first of three books complementing the shows. It is quite accessible; one need not have listened to a great many episodes to follow the story...though it wouldn't hurt. As I write this, I am listening to episode ten (from 2006, while the book was published in 2009). There were a few times in the book where I felt as though I was a little bit behind as a result. Some of the characters appeared to treated as though I should already know them, but I had yet to make their acquaintance in either story-telling format. Or some of the gadgets used by the Panda and/or sassy sidekick The Flying Squirrel that were treated as common-place items were new to me.
That's not a huge deal though. There's a conscious effort to make each book or episode a jump-on point. You could listen to episode #64 and still follow along and the book is consistent with that approach.
And of course, since the "radio" shows and the books are written by Gregg Taylor, all the elements from the former are included in the latter, most noteworthy among them the simmering romantic relationship between the two main characters, and their excellent teamwork.
Cabal also provides a little more background information about both characters, something that would seem easier to accomplish in a written (as opposed to audio) format.
Up next then: The Mind Master. It's a little disappointing that there are only two books left in the series. They were released a few months apart, and the last one was in August 2010, which doesn't cause optimism as to future volumes, but then again, I have about 70 audio episodes to catch up to, so...
If there is a fourth book in the works, you know what I think would be fun? Have a cover-design contest on deviantart. One of my first posts here was about a Captain Canuck anniversary art contest in which the winner won $100. It generated a variety of styles, designs, etc.
It'd be interesting to see what people come up with for the Panda and Squirrel, I think. Just thinking out loud.