But You May Fade, My Dog Will Always Come Through*

Dogs in crimeficHello, Humans,

For those of you who don’t yet know me, I am Indy. Together with my roommate Mr. Metoo, I own Margot Kinberg, who keeps this blog. Margot’s lazily taking the day off (humans!!!), but no matter. I am more capable than she is anyway of tackling today’s topic.

We dogs have had a long and close relationship with humans for thousands of years. I didn’t pay close attention in dog-history class, so I won’t bother giving examples. But you already probably know that dogs and humans have a long history together.

Dogs also play very important roles in crime fiction. Now, Margot and I have no patience whatsoever with fictional dogs who don’t act like, well, dogs. I mean, really! But there is plenty of crime fiction that features dogs that actually act authentic.

One of my favourite human writers is Agatha Christie. She mentions dogs quite often in her novels. To give just one instance, Dumb Witness (AKA Poirot Loses a Client) stars Bob, a likeable terrier. He owns Emily Arundell, a wealthy elderly woman with several financially desperate relatives. Miss Arundell is fairly intelligent for a human, and guesses that one of her relatives may be up to no good. So she writes a letter to Hercule Poirot asking for his help with a delicate matter. She doesn’t specify what it is, but the letter is enough to bring Poirot and Hastings to the village of Market Basing. They arrive too late to save Miss Arundell though. By they time they get there she’s been poisoned. Now Poirot and Hastings work through all of the clues to find out which of several suspects did the dirty deed. I should mention that Bob provides a very important clue.

There’s also Hannibal of course. He’s a brave little guy who owns Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. There, Hannibal, I’ve put you in the post as I promised.

M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth is the local bobby in the Highlands village of Lochdubh. He’s content with quiet village life and quite honestly has very little professional ambition. And who can blame him? Macbeth is owned in several of the novels in that series by a hunting dog named Towser. In other novels he’s owned by Lugs (erm – not exactly a flattering name, Ms. Beaton!). Both canines make excellent companions and Macbeth knows that. He shares his food with them, takes them on walks, well, you get the idea. And while neither Towser nor Lugs is the ‘star’ of the series, they add quite a lot to Macbeth’s life. I mean after all, he has his issues with finding true love with a human, so it’s just as well he’s got canine friendship. At least he gets that right.

And then there’s D.S. Nelson’s stories featuring milliner Blake Heatherington. Heatherington has owned Heatherington’s Hats for years, and has learned to tell quite a lot about people’s characters just from the hats they wear and from the way they wear them. In the course of Hats off to Murder, Heatherington meets Delilah Delibes, whose mother has disappeared. While Heatherington is looking into that mystery, he also gets involved in the untimely deaths of two of his customers, as well as some other strange events. But that’s not important. What is important is that Delilah is owned by a brave little dog named Bertie. Oh, yes, Bertie is quite a terrific character and plays an important role in Coming Home For Christmas, in which Delilah is afraid that she is being stalked. Oh, no, don’t worry; it’s not a ‘crazed serial killer’ story. Trust me. Dogs never lie. Anyway, you can read it yourself right here.

And you don’t have to be much of a one for cosy mysteries to read about the important role we dogs play in crime fiction. Just ask Superintendent Roy Grace, the creation of Peter James. Grace and his partner Cleo Morey are owned by a wonderful Labrador/Border Collie mix named Humphrey. In Not Dead Yet, the two humans are about to have a human pup, and Humphrey provides quite a lot of comfort to them as they get ready for this major change in their lives. What’s more, Grace is involved in an ugly case. An unidentified body has been found in an unused chicken shed, and it could be connected with threats on the life of famous star Gaia Lafayette, who is planning to come to Brixton to do a film. It’s a very tense time for Grace, and may I say that Humphrey is quite helpful.

And then there are Barbra and Brutus, Standard Schnauzers who own Anthony Bidulka’s Saskatoon PI Russell Quant.  Well, first just Barbra owns him but later Brutus joins the fun. Quant’s a bit much for one dog to handle. When we first meet them in Amuse Bouche, Quant is hired by wealthy entrepreneur Harold Chavell. Chavell and his fiancé Tom Osborn were planning an upmarket wedding and a lovely honeymoon in France, but Osborn has disappeared. So at Chavell’s request, Quant travels to France to track down the missing bridegroom. When Osborn later turns up dead, Chavell becomes a suspect. So he asks Quant to stay in his employ long enough to clear his name. Quant’s never handled a murder case before, but he agrees and soon finds that Chavell is by no means the only suspect in this murder. Oh, and by the way, Mr. Bidulka, if you’re reading this, Barbra and Brutus would have liked to go along with Mr. Quant on that trip, but no, you have them staying behind in Saskatoon. I hardly call that fair!

And then there’s Sully, the Pit Bull who owns the protagonist of Angela Savage’s story The Teardrop Tattoos. Interesting that Sully is named, but the woman he owns is not. Anyway, this woman has recently been released from prison, and Sully is her only friend and companion. She’s given housing not far from a local child care facility, and that’s when the trouble starts. One day she gets a letter from the local council stating that a complaint has been lodged against her for owning a restricted breed dog and saying that she will have to give Sully up. Brokenhearted at losing her only real friend, the woman decides to have her own revenge against the woman who lodged the complaint. It may not be a happy story, but Sully really is a terrific dog.

There are of course mystery series such as Laurien Berenson’s Melanie Travis novels and C.A. Newsome’s Dog Park mysteries that focus on dogs.  See what I mean? We canines are a wonderful species – we really are. Where would you humans be without us? I mean, just think of how often fictional bodies are discovered by dogs who are taking their humans for walks. Crime writers need us!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Margot has just come in from having a few piña coladas by the pool. So before she drifts off for a nap, it’s time for me to take her for a walk.

Oh, and one more thing. For you humans who are owned by cats rather than dogs, fear not. I’ve made special arrangements for you folks as well, coming soon on this blog.

ps. Thanks very much to Carol at Reading, Writing and Riesling for the inspiration for this post. Do go check out her blog; it’s got lovely book reviews and terrific ‘photos. And dogs.

 

 

 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Cat Stevens’ I Love My Dog.

50 Comments

Filed under Agatha Christie, Angela Savage, Anthony Bidulka, C.A. Newsome, D.S. Nelson, Laurien Berenson, M.C. Beaton, Peter James

50 responses to “But You May Fade, My Dog Will Always Come Through*

  1. Ah,what a lovely,clever blog.
    I’m racing away towards the final chapter of my second novel but had to stop to read this.
    Thank you for the break.
    Harry Dunn

    • Thank you, Harry – Glad you enjoyed my post. I’ll tell Margot about it. Perhaps she’ll let me post again sometime. Meanwhile, I wish you well finishing up your novel.

  2. Luanne

    Indy, are dogs more at home in cozy mysteries or any type of mystery? And, at the risk of insulting you, don’t you think CATS make good detectives in mystery novels?

    • Luanne – I’m not at all insulted. At least you didn’t ask me a stupid question like, ‘Do you want a treat?’ Of course I want a treat! Anyway, to your question about cats. They certainly have a very important place in crime fiction. If you’ll be kind enough to stop back here on Tuesday, you’ll see that a colleague of mine will be here to explain it all.
       
      Now, as to dogs in cosies as opposed to other mysteries, I don’t think the sub-genre makes much difference. There are working dogs in M.J. McGrath’s Edie Kiglatuk stories (sled dogs, to be precise), and those are not cosy novels. There are lots of other examples too. I think dogs play different roles in different kinds of mysteries, but there’s always room for canine companions.

  3. I think Agatha Christie really like dogs in real life, and it came out in Dumb Witness, I think she always had pets and was very fond of them. And perhaps they solved her mysteries for her….

    • Moira – I think you’re quite right about Christie. From what I’ve read, she did like dogs, so it’s no surprise that they’re so sympathetically treated in her stories. And yes, they do indeed prove quite helpful to human sleuths…

  4. Excellent blog, well done Indy! I didn’t realise quite how frequently dogs appear in crime fiction. And I do look forward to the cat post as well!

    • Thank you, Marina Sofia. I will show your comment to Margot, who does not appreciate me as she should. Yes, there are quite a number of dogs in crime fiction, even crime fiction that isn’t cosy and pet-centred. And I hope you will enjoy my catly colleague’s post.

  5. Woof, woof, Indy. Bertie says thank you for the shout out and he’s currently making sure Delilah doesn’t get into too much trouble in their next mystery.

    • D.S. – How kind of you! You say such thoughtful things. And how on earth did you learn to speak doggie so well? Thanks also for the greetings from Bertie. I’m quite sure he’ll do a marvellous job keeping Delilah safe. He’s good at that, the brave little guy.

  6. Reblogged this on Hat Paint, Ladders and Wonky Pooh and commented:
    Great post from Margot Kinberg about dogs and their mystery solving humans. Bertie gets a lovely shout out from Indy too and he’s very honoured.

  7. Interestingly, I have read several series with dogs: Cara Black’s heroine Aimee Leduc has a Bichon Frise named Miles Davis. Of course, there is Asta in The Thin Man by Hammett. Gail Bowen (at least in the early books I am reading) has given her sleuth, Joanne Kilbourne, two dogs, Sadie and Rosie. I particularly like Rosie, because my cat’s name is Rosie. Rita Mae Brown has a series called the Mrs. Murphy series (and Mrs. Murphy is a cat) but she also features Tee Tucker, a Corgi. That series I had trouble with because the animals are heavily involved in the sleuthing (as I remember it) but I am still going to try another one some day.

    • Tracy – You have mentioned some very good examples of dogs in crime fiction, so thank you. I meant to mention Sadie and Rosie and didn’t. You get a treat for filling in that gap. Oh, and your comment has also made me think of Martin Walker’s police detective Bruno and his owner Gigi. You see? We’re everywhere.
       
      And about the Mrs. Murphy series? It’s not that Margot and I don’t appreciate the writing in that series and the characters. Margot has mentioned it several times on the blog. But you’re right about the pets, we think.

  8. Indy: While I admire the fine examples of dogs assisting humans you are displaying some canine hubris.

    Martin Cruz Smith wrote a book set in the radiation affected area of Chernobyl that sets some perspective on roles by the title – Wolves Eat Dogs.

    Just as there bad humans for the good humans to challenge there are bad dogs in crime fiction. In Junkyard Dogs by Craig Johnson there are a pair of huge dogs – Butch and Sundance – who are ferocious. In contrast Sheriff Walt Longmire has his faithful and deeply loved companion Dog.

    It is one of my few disappointments with the Longmire series that Johnson chose a generic name for his dog. I knew Margot would never stoop to denying a dog its name.

    • Bill – Yes, now that you mention it, I probably am guilty of hubris. Not having a dog-lawyer background, I’m not always skilled at cogent and convincing argumentation. And quite honestly it’s not exactly a source of pride that our good name as a species is sullied by some of the canine characters in Wolves Eat Dogs and Junkyard Dogs. I won’t deny they’re out there; as I say, dogs don’t lie. But it is quite embarrassing – much like that family member who’s never discussed.
       
      Now, as to Craig Johnson, well, on the one hand, I completely agree with you that Dog should have a name. Not that his identity as a dog shouldn’t be a source of pride, but really! How would Longmire feel if he were called, ‘Human?’ Of course, he refers to his best friend as ‘the Indian’ at times. And sometimes he even gets the species wrong and calls him ‘the Bear!’ So I suppose I shouldn’t expect much else. On the other hand, the stories are quite well-written. So like you, Margot forgives Johnson that slip. Just the one.

  9. Indy, we had no idea that you are so talented! Thanks for the great posting. I always love it when authors include a furry friend or two as part of the story.
    WOOF!!

    • Anne – Woof to you too! My, another human who speaks doggie! Talk about talented! I am very glad you enjoyed the post. And let’s face it; furry companions add a lot to human life. Why shouldn’t they in crime fiction, too?

  10. Hi Indy, Sully here. Good job on the blog post. Thanks for the shout out, too.

    Another novel you might enjoy is Kate Atkinson’s STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY [sic.] DOG, the fourth book in the Jackson Brodie series. In this novel, Brodie ostensibly ‘rescues’ a border collie from its abusive humans, although we all know it’s generally the humans who need rescuing. The novel has an interesting take on the blurred line between rescue and kid-/dognapping, too – I thoroughly recommend it as a great read.

    • Hello, Sully! Thank you for the kind words and of course the shout out was a pleasure. I’m actually very glad you mentioned Started Early…. It’s a terrific example of how important we canines are in the world of crime fiction, and I should have mentioned it. I’m glad you filled in that gap. What’s not to like about a rescue story? And you’re right; sometimes it’s the humans just as much as us doggies that need rescuing. Cheers!

  11. Wonderful, especially the voice/bark.
    Giving my dog a prominent role in one of my mysteries was a driving force in telling the story.

    • Thank you, David. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. And I’m happy to hear that you’ve put an emphasis on your dog character; to me, that’s as it should be. Margot’s included a dog in her stories, too, and it makes her sleuth more appealing if you ask me.

  12. This post brings to mind the Austrian, now Italian, TV series Inspector Rex, with a police dog as star. Unfortunately, the later series was shown out of order in Australia, so lost its context, but you can now buy a properly ordered box set, apparently.

    • Caron – Oh, I’ve never seen that series. It’s a shame it wasn’t shown in order in Australia; that always does make context harder. But now that it’s available in a set, at least one catch up on it in order. I’ll definitely track that one’s scent and tell Margot about it. I’m sure she’ll be grateful to you.

  13. Well, Indy, we’re very impressed by your typing skills! Especially since we believed all dogs were lolloping, silly things who actually like to give humans ideas above their station with all this non-judgemental adoration stuff…not to mention obedience, the very idea of which makes our fur stand on end! But your incisive commentary and examples of some very intelligent dogs may have changed our opinion of canines, slightly. We’re confident however that when the other side of the story is told you will recognise that cats are innately superior to dogs…and humans for that matter.

    Best wishes from Tommy and Tuppence, and our servant FF

    • Hello, Tommy and Tuppence. I agree completely with you about humans as opposed to cats and dogs. Really, the things that they could learn from us. Hopeless, I sometimes think. Still, Mr. Metoo and I have managed to teach Margot one or two basic skills. We dogs do the adoring thing, as you point out. But if you think about it, dogs get an awful lot for doing very little. We’ve trained our humans quite well. Oh, and about obedience? Erm – just because Margot has some rules for us around here doesn’t mean we always obey them. We do that when there’s a treat in it for us, but otherwise? Well, not always. But never let it be said that I am unwilling to consider the cat’s point of view. After all, you and your feline friends have been around for quite a long time too, and any species that’s been worshiped as a deity must be doing something right. It’s a pleasure to meet you and I’m quite sure you’ll enjoy the feline perspective, to be presented soon.

  14. A delightful post Margot and Indy. A few comments – I really love the Inspector Rex series – no matter what order it is screened – such a great piece of escapism and Rex is so loyal, smart and loving – he always solves the case :) Rex In Rome is a particular favourite – more contemporary and great looking human assistants .

    A few years back I read a couple of P I books written from the dogs perspective – they were fun reads. I wish I could remember who wrote them.

    And over the weekend I read several books – including one called Beams Falling by Australian P M Newton – an ex cop – her protagonist has PTSD and is forced to see a therapist – she has a dog in her rooms – providing comfort to her clients – a small but important role. By the way – this is a book I highly recommend.

    Bob and Dempsey say hi and thanks for the post. :)

    • Carol – Please say ‘Hi,’ to Bob and Dempsey for me – oh, and for Margot too of course. That Inspector Rex series sounds better and better as you describe it. And if you throw in attractive human pets – well, what’s not to like?
       
      I’m trying to think of the PI series you’re referring to as I re-read your comment. Margot’s read a lot of them to me, but that one doesn’t ring a bell. If you think of the author or the title or the dog’s name or anything do let us know. We’d love to know more about them.
       
      Beams Falling is such an interesting title, and the premise sounds good too. And of course I always like it when dogs prove their worth. Therapy dogs really do make a difference or so I’ve heard. Margot ought to read that one, I think.
       
      I had fun with this post and Margot and I both appreciate the inspiration! :-)

  15. kathy d.

    Well, we can’t leave Mitch and Peppy, V.I. Warshawski’s dogs out of this discussion; they would be miffed. Mitch is Peppy’s son, and one or both dogs have been presented in every book. However, they don’t solve crimes. They are dogs. They keep V.I. and Mr. Contreras company; they guard the house from intruders, including cops and Homeland Security investigators; they run on the beach and swim in Lake Michigan, i.e., they keep V.I. physically fit.
    Also, as I watched a dvd of Montalbano’s escapades, lo and behold: There was a Newfoundland named Orlando, a seeing-eye dog, whom our Sicilian detective becomes attached to, and whom we learn from the next episode, ends up with Catarella, who adores him.
    I wonder what Paola Falier would do with a dog, but I doubt that she’d allow one in the apartment.
    This reminds me that my new neighbor who had a chihuahua/dachshund mix who whined all day while she was away, just adopted a Pomeranian from a rescue group that saves dogs from puppy mills. This poor dog had never been outside of a cage, but he seems to be adjusting to having fun. Now the first dog doesn’t cry all day.
    This is just a reminder for everyone about dog (and cat) rescues, and donating to groups that do this.

    • Kathy – Right you are about Mitch and Peppy. They are well-deserving of a mention here and I’m glad you’ve included them. You get a treat for that. And of course Catarella loves Orlando. Newfies are big dogs, but they are indeed adorable. Naturally Catarella fell under Orlando’s spell.
       
      As to Paola Falier, you’re right that she probably wouldn’t want a dog in their home, although I can’t see why. We dogs are excellent additions to any family if you think about it. Maybe they’ll get one at some point. I could see Guido Brunetti liking dogs.
       
      It’s good to hear that your neighbour has gotten a new friend for that chihuahua/dachshund owner. We dogs do like to have doggie friends to play with and keep each other company, especially while the humans we own are at work or out. And I completely agree with you about shelter and rescue groups. Mr. Metoo and I are both rescue dogs but I say Margot’s the one who’s been rescued.

  16. Indy- I’m Rufus, Natasha’s dog, named after the dog in Murder t the Kennedy Centre. I may be a toy, but the dog I’m named after is real.

    • Pleased to meet you, Rufus! I’m so glad you mentioned Murder at the Kennedy Center, too. Your namesake does a terrific job in that novel. I mean, after all, he does find the body… He’s a good dog in the other novels that feature Mac Smith.

  17. In fact, Natasha’s other pet dog, Toby, too shares her name (but not gender) with a crime buster. The original Toby may have belonged to Mr Sherman, but he often helped Mr. Holmes.

  18. Indy, I think you should know my favorite fictional dog – a black Labrador retriever who provides Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin with the solution of a murder mystery in “Die Like a Dog,” a novella in the collection “Three Witnesses.” His name – at the start of the story – is, unfortunately, “Bootsy,” but by the end of the story he is responding nicely (and, I suspect, with more pride) to “Jet.” Jet provides the solution by behaving as any dog really would behave – in knowing what and whom to follow and by helping to identify people involved in the case. I’m quite fond of him. And, yes, Nero Wolfe, who has no use for most men and women, is very much won over by Jet.

    • Les – Ah, yes, Jet! Thank you for mentioning him. He’s absolutely instrumental in solving the mystery and what I like best about him is exactly what you say. He acts like a dog and that’s how he gives Wolfe and Goodwin the information they needs. It’s good to know you’re familiar with Jet, Les. Of course, I figured you would be. And I couldn’t agree more: Jet is a much better name than Bootsy!

  19. I remember the photos you used to have as your profile, with your dogs. I wondered how they were getting on. I love ‘Dumb Witness’ BTW.

    • Sarah – Oh, yes, that profile picture goes back several years. The dogs who own me now are doing very well, thanks. And I agree; Dumb Witness is a terrific novel.

  20. A wonderful post, Ms. Kinberg. One of the dog books I enjoyed reading in 2013 was “A Dog of Flanders,” a very touching tale of an orphaned dog and a poor little boy who cares for him. It is written by English author Marie Louise de la Ramée (aka Ouida) and has been adapted to film more than once. A dog movie I recommend to every dog lover is the Richard Gere starrer “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale,” a true story.

    • Prashant – Thanks for the kind words. And I remember seeing a film version of A Dog of Flanders years ago. I’ll confess I’ve not read the book, but the film version I saw was well done. I haven’t seen Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, but I remember thinking at the time it came out that it sounded worth seeing. I’m glad you’ve reminded me of it.

  21. Col

    Andrew Vachss’ character Burke has a Neapolitan Mastiff called Pansy, which is an important part of his books. Time to re-visit them, I think.

    • Col – Ah, now that’s a character I’ve not yet met. Really? A Neapolitan Mastiff called Pansy? What a name for such a magnificent animal! Still, I ought to get to know this character I think.

      • Col

        Yes – I guess he’s aiming for ironic. Keishon struggled with the first book in his 18 long series. (Overload on dramatics, with a hint of the ridiculous, maybe – but it was a first book) I’ve maybe read 8 or 9, though it was a long while ago and enjoyed them. He usually deals with difficult themes…abuse against women and children in particular – so they aren’t easy, light reads.

        • Col – Thanks for the information. Interesting isn’t it how some authors need a book or two to really hit their strides in a series. And I’ll be sure to try this series when I’m ready for something more challenging, theme-wise.

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