Tales of the Red Panda: The Crime Cabal
Written by Gregg Taylor
ISBN 978-1-4392-4133-2

Based on characters and situations from Decoder Ring Theatre, The Crime Cabal takes The Red Panda and his partner The Flying Squirrel into the prose realm. I’ve never listened to an episode of Decoder Ring Theatre so I came into this as a total newbie — but I didn’t feel lost at all.

The plot is nothing new — crime bosses assemble a variety of deadly villains with the intention of dealing with the pesky Panda once and for all — but what makes this book sing is the characterization. The interplay between the Panda and his partner is smart, engaging and surprisingly sweet. To be honest, I found myself rushing through all the scenes those two characters weren’t in because I was looking forward to their scenes together.

The prose is fast-moving and has just enough description to keep you engaged without being bogged down. The villains are interesting takes on classic figures and the supporting cast is amusing — I particularly enjoyed the butler’s feeling of exasperation where Kit Baxter is concerned.

If you’re looking for a fun, quick pulp read, this is the book for you — and I think it might be a good entry-level book for new readers, especially female ones. The Flying Squirrel is capable (she’s definitely no “sidekick”) and the romance factor is something that I think would really help humanize pulp for new fans.

I give it 4 out of 5 stars.