Saturday, October 01, 2011

Celebrating Mysteries: The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Bite

My celebration of Responsible Dog Ownership Month concludes this week with a look at four crime fiction authors who give their main characters some very large canine sidekicks.

I love dogs, and I've been blessed with some exceptional best friends-- ones that tried to save me when they thought I was drowning, ones who wouldn't let anyone raise his voice to me, and one who saved me from a rapist. The unconditional love they give is beyond price.

Somehow I think I was pre-wired to love dogs. When my mother was pregnant with me, she wanted a boy, but when she dreamt, I was always a girl. One recurring dream showed me as a little girl running and laughing, flanked by two Irish Wolfhounds. Perhaps that's why I've always had a fondness for large dogs. These four authors do, too, so let's learn more about them.

Melissa Cleary is a house pseudonym for more than one writer, hence the lack of a photo or any other information. Written under this pen name is a series featuring Palmer, Ohio residents Jackie Walsh, a professor of film studies, and her ex-police dog, Jake.

There are eleven books in the series, the first three of which are A Tail of Two Murders (1992), Dog Collar Crime (1993), and Hounded to Death (1993).

Here is a brief synopsis of A Tail of Two Murders:

Introducing Jackie Walsh and her crime-solving shepherd, Jake. When a beautiful Alsatian shepherd shows up in her backyard--with a bullet wound in his leg--Jackie has no intention of keeping him, despite her son's pleas. And soon the matter of the dog takes second place to her investigation of a murder at the university. 

Trevor Scott
Trevor Scott grew up in Duluth, Minnesota, where he grew up trapping, fishing, hunting and being an alpine ski racer. After stints in the Navy and Air Force as well as working on a daily newspaper, he turned to writing.

Scott has written several thrillers and espionage novels and two books that feature Tony Caruso, a private investigator working out of his home office in an old Ford pickup. Caruso's sidekick is a German-trained bomb-sniffing Giant Schnauzer named Panzer, and they call Bend, Oregon home.

The two books are Boom Town (2006) and Burst of Sound (2008), both of which are available in Kindle editions for 99¢ each.

Here is a brief synopsis of Boom Town:

Private Investigator Tony Caruso lives out of his rolling office, an old Ford pickup truck, with his German-trained bomb-sniffing dog, Panzer, a Giant Schnauzer. Tony retired after twenty years in the Navy as an aviation ordnanceman, but this training might not be enough when he is hired by an old friend to look into a murder suicide in Bend, Oregon, a resort Boom Town in the high desert east of the Cascades. Was it a murder suicide as the local sheriff thinks? Or has this idyllic community been ripped apart by not only murder but scandalous sexual deviance, lust, jealousy and the quest for the almighty dollar? Follow Tony as he wades through a cast of characters as diverse as the Oregon landscape to solve this mystery. 

Ellery Adams
Ellery Adams grew up on a beach near Long Island Sound. Having lived her adult life in a series of landlocked towns, she treasures her memories of open water and the smell of the sea. She's held many jobs, but now writes full-time from her home in Virginia.

Ellery writes what is rapidly becoming one of my favorite cozy mystery series, which is called Books by the Bay. The books are set by the sea on the coast of North Carolina, and they feature restaurant owner Olivia Limoges and her black Standard Poodle, Captain Haviland.

For those of you who think of poodles as high-strung, yappy dogs with silly haircuts, think again. (Before Captain Haviland bares his teeth at you.) Standard Poodles are the second most intelligent breed of dog after the Border Collie. Having owned a black three-pound Toy Poodle (the dog that saved me from a rapist, I might add), I know firsthand just how smart and brave) these dogs are!

There are currently two books in the series, with the third being released in December: A Killer Plot (2010), A Deadly Cliché (2011), and The Last Word (December 6, 2011).

A brief synopsis of A Killer Plot:

Olivia Limoges is the subject of constant gossip. Ever since she came back to town-a return as mysterious as her departure-Olivia has kept to herself, her dog, and her unfinished novel. With a little cajoling from the eminently charming writer Camden Ford, she agrees to join the Bayside Book Writers, break her writer's block, and even make a few friends...

But when townspeople start turning up dead with haiku poems left by the bodies, anyone with a flair for language is suddenly suspect. And it's up to Olivia to catch the killer before she meets her own surprise ending. 

Todd Borg
Todd Borg and his wife moved from Minnesota to Lake Tahoe in 1990 for the simple reason that they had fallen in love with the place. While Todd had written for decades, there was something about the Tahoe landscape that gave him the idea for a series of books with a detective protagonist who lives there.

This series features private investigator Owen McKenna, an ex-San Francisco homicide inspector, and his Harlequin Great Dane, Spot. Spot has his very own page on Todd's website, and right now "His Largeness" reigns supreme as my favorite canine character. (Sorry, Captain Haviland!)

There are currently nine books in this series, and the first three are: Tahoe Deathfall (2001), Tahoe Blowup (2001), and Tahoe Ice Grave (2002).

Publishers Weekly has this to say about Tahoe Deathfall:

In Todd Borg's Tahoe Deathfall, first in the Owen McKenna series, a six-year-old girl falls to her death during a hike. Eight years later, her heiress twin sister hires P.I. McKenna to investigate the death. He discovers some skeletons in the family's closet, the likes of which he's never encountered, not to mention some pending murder plots.

I hope you've enjoyed this month's doggy theme. I know I have. I hope you'll stop by next weekend when Celebrating Mysteries will be shining the spotlight on crime fiction with a religious calling.

To end this month's theme on the proper note, I'll share a photo of my best buddy, Jere-- the three-pound bundle of love that chased a rapist out of my home.... It's been almost twenty years, me lovely, and I still miss you.



  1. I loved A Killer Plot and Captain Haviland, and I have the second book in the series waiting on my Kindle. I just started reading cozy mysteries this year, and Ellery Adams was one of my first authors I picked up.

  2. No wonder you love dogs so much. My Great Danes were fawns and I didn't have their ears cropped. What loveable buffoons they were and I miss them. Now, sans dog, I spoil friends' and neighbors' dogs.

  3. Kate-- I've finished reading A Deadly Cliche (just have to get my review up), and it's even better than the first. Although my mystery reading is all over the board, I have been reading more cozies this year.

    Barbara-- I bet you're extremely popular on the wag circuit! ;)


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