A scientist by training, a romanticist at heart, Maggie Toussaint loves to solve puzzles. Whether it’s the puzzle of a relationship or a who-dun-it, she tackles them all with equal aplomb and wonder. Maggie’s cozy mystery from Five Star, IN FOR A PENNY, is about a terrible golfer trying to save her best friend from a murder rap. Her three other published works are pet-laden romantic suspense books, one of which won Best Romantic Suspense in the 2007 National Readers Choice Awards. Her day jobs include freelancing for a weekly paper and leading a yoga class. Visit her at http://www.maggietoussaint.com/.
Readers love sassy felines and lovable pooches. In the mystery genre, pets are often instrumental in solving the crime. Whether pets hog the limelight or play the role of sidekick, their presence in a story is often sought-out by mystery fans.
Some writers employ an animal’s natural abilities, such as a cat’s curiosity or a dog’s keen sense of smell to solve the riddle of who-dun-it. These writers intuitively understand the affinity people have for animals. Readers may connect with pets on a physical and emotional level. In return, pets often display loyalty and affection for their humans despite the species language barrier. A few examples of dogs and cats in mysteries follow.
In my cozy from Five Star, IN FOR A PENNY, a grieving St. Bernard helps sleuth Cleopatra Jones run down the villain. Carola Dunn writes about a perfectly normal mutt, Nana, who finds a vital mystery-solving clue in MISTLETOE AND MURDER; Nana also finds the body in BLACK SHIP. In Glynn Marsh Alam’s upcoming March release, MOON WATER MADNESS, swamp dog Plato helps sleuth Luanne Fogarty by digging up a weapon. A four-month-old Rhodesian Ridgeback named Baraka shines in Maris Soule’s mystery, THE CROWS.
Marcia James has a Chinese Crested hairless dog named Smokey, a DEA drug-sniffing dog, who goes undercover in AT HER COMMAND. (Janes includes Chinese Cresteds in all her books; her upcoming short story in TAILS OF LOVE benefits a no-kill animal shelter.) And who can forget Asta, the playful terrier tugging Nick and Nora Charles around in THE THIN MAN series? Tom Shreck has an adventurous Muslim basset hound named Allah-King in his Duffy Dombrowski series, of which TKO is the latest release. Shrek’s series was recommended by author Barbra Annino, who has a similar pet in her series, which is in acquisitions. Phyllis Humphrey is penning a cozy in which the dog’s behavior helps her sleuth solve the mystery.
But mysteries aren’t just populated with dogs. Felines Koko and Yum Yum from Lillian Jackson Braun’s THE CAT WHO… series solve crimes in book after book. Author CP Perkins recommends the five-book Dixie Hemingway Pet Sitter Series, written by Blaize Clement, in which amateur sleuth Dixie has all manner of interactions with her pet clients.
Other authors seek to up the stakes by adding a twist to animals in mysteries. They include an enhanced level of communication that goes beyond routine pet/owner interactions. This information exchange ventures into the realm of extrasensory perception, allowing direct thought transference between sleuth and pet or animal to animal. To illustrate, I’ve included a few titles from this subgenre of books.
Piper Rome told me about an upcoming pet series by Judi McCoy. In McCoy’s books, Rudy the talking dog communicates with Ellie the NY dogwalker. Look for McCoy’s titles to release soon: HOUNDING THE PAVEMENT (March) and HEIR OF THE DOG (October); McCoy reports that her books have been optioned into a weekly television series. Angie Fox writes a paranormal mystery/romance series, the first of which is THE ACCIDENTAL DEMON SLAYER, where Pirate the talking dog is a reader favorite.
Let’s not forget the cats. Rita Mae Brown has another installation in her sleuthing cat series, THE PURRFECT MURDER, coming out this month, where felines Mrs. Murphy and Pewter share duties with Tee Tucker the Corgi. THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE by David Wroblewski, a literary thriller, mixes fact and fiction as the dog Almondine communicates with a deaf mute boy.
Other authors change it up even more. They write about pets as sleuths. In Vic diGenti’s WINDRUSHER series, the story is told entirely from a feline point of view. Author Karen McCullough reminded me to include Carole Nelson Douglas’s Midnight Louie series, where the cat is the private investigator.
Why are so many authors inspired to write pets in their books? I believe it is due to their experiences with pets. The unconditional affection of dogs and grudging respect of cats that occurs when animals and people cohabitate creates lasting feelings and memories. Pet stories speak a universal language, one that pet owners understand intuitively.
To put it another way, characters populate stories. Story characters have their own agendas, their own means, motives, and opportunities. Pets come pre-programmed with where they want to sleep, what they want to eat, when they want an adventure, etc. For writers and readers, an agenda-driven pet is pure gold.
Lists of pets in mysteries are available online. Here’s one such list that may provide more information: http://librarybooklists.org/fiction/adult/mystery.htm#mystanim
My examples of mysteries with pets are by no means exhaustive, and I apologize if I’ve omitted anyone’s favorite. Be sure and add any omissions to the comments.
A special thanks to Evelyn David and her friends at The Stiletto Gang for inviting me to be here today. Thanks for stopping by the blog!
IN FOR A PENNY, ISBN 9781594146466 (hardcover and large print) Buy it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or ask your librarian to order it!
HOUSE OF LIES, Best Romantic Suspense, National Readers' Choice Awards ISBN 9781601540317 buy it: Amazon, The Wild Rose Press, Kindle
NO SECOND CHANCE, buy a book, help a horse ISBN 9781601541628 buy it: Amazon, The Wild Rose Press, Kindle
SEEING RED (ebook) Buy it at Fictionwise