Category Archives: Angela Savage

We’re Not the Same But We Can Talk*

Different CulturesAs I’ve mentioned before on this blog, culture has profound effects on the way we think, act, dress and speak. Sometimes we’re not even aware of how much we are affected by culture until we work with someone from another culture. The experience of working with a team-mate from another culture can broaden our horizons and enrich us. But it can be awkward at times too. Different cultures see the world in different ways, and those differences can result in ‘culture clash.’ But as the world continues to get smaller, so to speak, it’s more and more the case that people work with others from different cultures.

In fiction, those cultural differences, and the way they’re worked out, can add a really interesting layer to a story. Certainly it can in crime fiction. Here are just a few examples to show you what I mean. I’m sure you’ll be able to think of lots more than I can.

Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings are from two different cultures. In many ways their cultural differences don’t impede their work. Yet there are some cultural issues that both of them have had to get used to over time. For instance, Poirot grew up in a culture where greeting and leave-taking involves embracing. Hastings on the other hand is not accustomed to that kind of physical contact in that context. So Poirot has had to learn to shake hands, because he knows that anything else makes Hastings feel awkward. For his part, Hastings has had to get used to Poirot’s habit of hot chocolate for breakfast and tisane instead of beer, wine or something like whisky. Their cultural differences add an interesting layer to their characters and a measure of interest to the stories that feature them.

In Anya Lipska’s Where the Devil Can’t Go, we meet Janusz Kiszka, unofficial ‘fixer’ for London’s Polish community. When a young woman named Weronika goes missing, her landlady Pani Tosik gets concerned and asks her priest about it. The priest in turn asks Kiszka to try to find out where Weronika is and what happened to her. The trail leads to a friend of Weronika’s, who is later found murdered. That’s how Kiszka’s path crosses that of DC Natalie Kershaw, who is investigating a series of deaths. The two are suspicious of each other at first. Kershaw sees Kiszka as a possible suspect in the murders. For his part, Kiszka isn’t fond of the police to begin with, and Kershaw is certainly not his idea of what a cop ought to be like. They have many cultural differences too that make communication a challenge. But slowly they begin to work together as each comes to see that the other can be helpful. You couldn’t call them friends, even at the end of the novel, but they do establish an understanding and they do learn to work together.

Australian ex-cop Max Quinlan has to work with someone from a different culture in Andrew Nette’s Ghost Money. Madeleine Avery has hired Quinlan to find her missing brother Charles. Since Charles Avery’s last known whereabouts was Bangkok, Quinlan starts his search there. It turns out that Avery isn’t in Bangkok though. He’s gone on to Cambodia, so Quinlan follows the trail there. When he gets to Phnom Penh, Quinlan meets journalist’s assistant Heng Sarin, who’s lived in Cambodia all his life. Sarin and Quinlan are from different cultures, but each has reasons to want to find out what happened to Avery. As the novel goes on, Nette uses those cultural differences to share some of Cambodia’s history and culture with the reader. And it’s interesting to see how these two, who are from very different backgrounds, work together.

Angela Savage’s PI Jayne Keeney is also Australian. She lives and works in Bangkok though, so she’s gotten accustomed to the Thai culture. Keeney is a reader of crime fiction (you gotta like that in a fictional sleuth ;-) ) so she becomes a regular at a bookshop in Bangkok’s Indian neighbourhood. That’s how she meets Rajiv Patel, whose uncle owns the shop. In The Half Child, we learn that Patel is from a traditional New Delhi family. He doesn’t want to live that traditional lifestyle, but he is a product of that culture. Keeney of course has her own culture and cultural assumptions. The two become business partners and later, lovers, so they are motivated to work together and get along. But they do sometimes have to bridge cultural gaps. For instance, Patel communicates a great deal of information by moving his head in certain ways. As we learn in The Dying Beach, Keeney comes to know that Patel’s side-to-side head nods are

 

‘…as nuanced as a Thai smile…’

 

Patel has to get used to Keeney’s way of looking at life too, and it does cause friction between them. Those cultural differences and nuances add much to this series.

In Shamini Flint’s A Calamitous Chinese Killing, Inspector Singh of the Singapore Police is asked to go to Beijing to help investigate the death of Justin Tan. Justin was the son of Susan Tan, First Secretary at the Singapore Embassy, so his death is not going to be ignored. What’s more, his mother believes he was deliberately murdered. The police theory is that he was murdered in a robbery gone wrong, and that’s the theory under which Singh operates when he begins his investigation. But soon enough he begins to suspect that Susan Tan is right. As he digs more deeply into the case, Singh works with former Beijing police officer Li Jun to find out who would have wanted to kill the boy and why. Singh and Li Jun are from different cultures, and they have to get used to each other. And sometimes that does cause some tension. But each respects the other and each has skills that contribute to solving the case.

What’s interesting about cultural differences is that you don’t even have to be from a different country to have cultural differences. Just as an example, Domingo Villar’s Leo Caldas is Galician by birth and culture. He lives and works in Vigo and is accustomed to life there. His assistant Rafael Estevez on the other hand is from Zaragoza, in the autonomous community of Aragon. Even though both men are Spanish, they are from different cultures and have different ways of looking at life. And those differences do come up in the course of their investigations, although each respects the other. It’s an interesting look at the number of different cultures there can be, even in the same country.

I’ve only had space to mention a few examples of team-mates who work through cultural differences. There are a lot of others of course (e.g. Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire and Henry Standing Bear, or Margaret Coel’s Vicky Holden and Fr. John O’Malley). Which ones do you like best?

 

 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from The Who’s Unholy Trinity.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Andrew Nette, Angela Savage, Anya Lipska, Craig Johnson, Domingo Villar, Margaret Coel, Shamini Flint

Everything is Changing But the Song Remains the Same*

BritMuseumChange is inevitable in any culture. Sometimes those changes are for the better, and sometimes they bring trouble. But always they affect the way we think. The tension between new developments and cultural change on the one hand, and the comfort of tradition on the other, can make for a really interesting subtext in a novel. And since cultural change is a fact of life, that sort of tension is also realistic.

Agatha Christie held up a mirror to a lot of the cultural changes that came to her society, especially after World War II. To take just one example, in After the Funeral (AKA Funerals are Fatal), the family of wealthy Richard Abernethie gathers for his funeral and the reading of the will. During that gathering, Abernethie’s younger sister Cora says that he was murdered. At first, everyone hushes her up and Cora herself urges the rest not to pay any attention to what she’s said. But privately, the family members do begin to wonder. When Cora is murdered the next day, it seems even more likely that she was right. Family attorney Mr. Entwhistle visits Hercule Poirot and asks him to look into the matter. Poirot agrees and arranges for the family members to gather at the family home Enderby to choose mementos from among Abernethie’s things. Among other things that come up for discussion is the set of cultural changes that have led to the breakup of the old Victorian estates, and the new generation that has quite different cultural values. Oh, and that weekend yields an important clue to the murderer.

There have been many fundamental changes to Chinese culture over the last hundred years. And within the last twenty-five years there’ve been even more, as China has integrated some elements of capitalism into her economy. The tensions among traditional Chinese culture, Mao-style communism and modern Chinese-style capitalism form an interesting undercurrent in Qiu Xiaolong’s series featuring Shanghai police inspector Chen Cao. Besides his police work, Chen is a poet who reads and enjoys classic Chinese poetry. He also does translations of some English-language work into Chinese, so he has a sense of modern Western thought. The Shanghai in which he works still has elements of the Mao years, and many of the characters we meet in the novels remember the years of the Cultural Revolution and all of its effects. And yet, Shanghai is also in some ways a very modern city in which elements of capitalism are now becoming woven into the social fabric. In the characters’ actions, viewpoints and so on, we see how the many changes China has gone through have resulted in some fascinating larger questions. For instance, can China embrace elements of capitalism without also embracing all of Western culture? Where do traditional Chinese family structure, values and philosophy fit in, if they do? The Inspector Chen series is certainly a crime fiction series, but it also addresses these larger questions.

We also see some of tension that change has brought to the Chinese culture in Shamini Flint’s A Calamitous Chinese Killing. Susan Tan is First Secretary at the Singapore Embassy in China. She has requested that Inspector Singh of the Singapore Police be sent to Beijing to find out what has happened to her son. Justin Tan was killed one night in what the police have called a robbery gone very wrong. And there is evidence to support that theory. That’s also the theory that both governments find most expedient, if tragic. But Tan suspects there’s more to the story, and Inspector Singh has developed a reputation for finding answers. So very reluctantly, he travels to Beijing where he begins to look into the case. As he investigates, readers see some of the cultural changes that have come to that part of China, and the tensions they’ve caused. There is still a strong element among some of the characters of family loyalty, filial duty and traditional Chinese values and beliefs. We also see the effect of Maoist cultural and political values; in fact, there is an interest in reviving some of those values. We also see the element of modern capitalism. Here is what one character says about the effect of some of these changes:

 

‘‘The government pays lip service to his [Mao’s] memory, but the hero worship of past eras is over.’
‘And what about the ordinary people?’ [Singh]
‘The so-called proletariat?’
‘Yup.’
‘They’ve found another god to follow.’
‘Xi Jinping?’ referring to the current leader’
‘Money’…’

 

Throughout this novel it’s interesting to see how Singh, who is an outsider, perceives all of the changes and their effects on modern China.

Alexander McCall Smith’s Mma Precious Ramotswe sees the changes that have come to Botswana and the effect that they’ve had. She’s certainly no prude, but she doesn’t always like what she sees, especially among those who seem to have forgotten traditional Botswana values. The topic comes up for instance in Morality For Beautiful Girls, in which Mr. Pulani hires the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. He runs a famous beauty pageant and wants the agency’s help in choosing the winner for this year. Mma. Ramotswe is otherwise occupied, so her assistant Mma. Grace Makutsi takes the case. She interviews the four finalists and in her discussions with them, there’s a larger discussion about modern values, traditional values and how they have affected Botswana.

The Thai culture has changed a great deal over the years as it’s come into contact with Westerners. And we see some of that change in Angela Savage’s series featuring Bangkok-based PI Jayne Keeney. One the one hand, there is a strong thread of traditional Thai culture, family structure, values and spirituality. It’s woven into the lives of several of the characters who appear in Savage’s novels. Keeney herself is not Thai, but she has learned about these traditional ways and respects them. At the same time, the culture is changing. There’s an influence of Western music, food, and of course, Western values. In some ways this change has helped Thailand to be a part of the global community. But in others, we can see that the changes have not all been positive. That tension adds a solid thread of both context and conflict to these novels.

Culture change and the tension that it can bring are a reality of life. So it’s not surprising that they also form a solid undercurrent to crime fiction.

 

ps. The ‘photo? I think it shows cultural change in action. That’s the very traditional and lovely British Museum. The people there are the face of modern London, with all of the cultural change that’s happened in that city.

 

 

 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from UB40’s Hand That Rocks the Cradle.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Alexander McCall Smith, Angela Savage, Qiu Xiaolong, Shamini Flint

‘Cause I Know You Understand*

Crime Writing PairsIt isn’t always easy to share your life with a crime writer. Just ask Mr. Confessions of a Mystery Novelist… Or perhaps, better not. ;-) Now, the one kind of person who does know what it’s like to be a crime writer is…another crime writer. And we do see several very successful examples of crime writers who share their lives with other crime writers.

Some of these partnerships have resulted in some memorable co-authored books and series. One of the most famous in crime fiction is arguably the partnership of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. Fans will know that these two real-life partners created the ten-book series featuring Stockholm police detective Martin Beck and his team. Each has individual writing credits too, but they’re most famous for this joint series.

You could say a similar thing about Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, the husband/wife team who write as Nicci French. They’ve written several standalones together and recently they’ve also been co-writing the Frieda Klein series – the ‘days of the week’ novels. Both Gerrard and French have written individually as well, but most readers know them best through their collaboration.

And then there are Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini, who are married in their personal lives and co-authors of the Coffeehouse Mystery Series professionally. They use the name Cleo Coyle for that series, and the name Alice Kimberly for their Haunted Bookshop mysteries. They write individually as well, but their best-known work is collaborative.

Sometimes, crime-writer partners are more famous for their individual work than they are for their collaborations. For instance, Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini have been married for over twenty years. Each of them is famous as an individual. Muller fans will know that she is the creator of the Sharon McCone PI series, which was one of the original American female PI series. Pronzini is of course the author of the Nameless series as well as several other series and standalones. He’s edited a number of anthologies as well. Muller and Pronzini have collaborated on the Carpenter and Quincannon historical series, the second of which came out in December of 2013. But each also has a very long individual ‘track record.’

The same is true of Kenneth and Margaret Millar. As Ross Macdonald, Kenneth Millar was most famous for his Lew Archer novels and story collections. He wrote and edited other work, but his name is most closely linked with Archer’s. Margaret Millar wrote a few short series including the three Tom Aragon novels. But she is possibly better known for her standalone psychological mysteries and character studies. To my knowledge (so please, put me right if I’m wrong!), the Millars didn’t collaborate on novels or series. I wonder what it would have been like if they had…

More recently both Faye and Jonathan Kellerman have each created very successful crime writing careers.  Faye Kellerman is best known for her Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus series, although she’s written other novels as well. And fans will know that Jonathan Kellerman is the author of the well-regarded Alex Delaware/Milo Sturgis series. He’s also written other fiction as well as non-fiction books. It seems the family tradition is being passed on, too, as their son Jesse Kellerman is also a crime/thriller writer as well as a playwright.

And then there’s Angela Savage and Andrew Nette. Savage is the author of a PI series featuring Bangkok-based Jayne Keeney. She has also written short fiction as well as non-fiction articles. Her partner is Andrew Nette, the author of Ghost Money. Nette is also the author of several short noir crime stories as well as several non-fiction articles. Both Savage and Nette have also been very active in the Australian crime writers’ community, and they’ve worked together on some projects, such as Crime Factory’s Hard Labour, a collection of Aussie noir stories.

There are of course other crime writers whose partners also write crime fiction. There isn’t really space to mention them all.  I know that there are some interesting conversations around my home because I write crime fiction. And only one of us is a crime writer…

 

 

 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Alex Hill and Fats Waller’s I’m Crazy ‘Bout My Baby (And My Baby’s Crazy ‘Bout Me).

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Filed under Alice Alfonsi, Alice Kimberly, Andrew Nette, Angela Savage, Bill Pronzini, Cleo Coyle, Faye Kellerman, Jonathan Kellerman, Kenneth Millar, Maj Sjöwall, Marc Cerasini, Marcia Muller, Margaret Millar, Nicci French, Nicci Gerrard, Per Wahlöö, Ross Macdonald, Sean French

A Box of Chocolates and a Dozen Flowers*

Valentine's Day 2014 It’s St. Valentine’s Day as I write this post. Now, traditionally, Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a day of grand romantic gestures such as flowers, candy and so on, and that’s all fine. But are you aware of how dangerous those things can be? Before you go rushing out to buy that special box of luxury chocolates or that bouquet of expensive roses, have a quick look at some crime fiction and you’ll see what I mean.

 

Flowers

 

Flowers are beautiful of course, and if you watch advertisements, you’ll be convinced that nothing says ‘love’ like roses. But consider how dangerous flowers can be. In Agatha Christie’s story The Blue Geranium, a group of people including Miss Marple go to dinner at the home of Colonel Arthur Bantry and his wife Dolly. During the meal, Bantry tells the story of George Pritchard, whose wife suddenly died of what seems to have been shock and fear. That’s not surprising, since she wasn’t in good physical or mental health. In fact, she began to believe that she could only be helped by psychics and seers. That’s how she fell under the influence of Zarida, Psychic Reader of the Future. Zarida specifically told Mrs. Pritchard to beware of, among other things, blue geraniums, blue primroses and blue hollyhocks. Then, mysteriously, the flowers on the wallpaper in Mrs. Pritchard’s bedroom began to turn blue. That’s when she suddenly died. Some people believed that Zarida actually predicted the future. Others blamed Pritchard for killing his wife. But Miss Marple has quite a different explanation.

In Rex Stout’s novella Door to Death, Nero Wolfe takes the drastic step of leaving his brownstone when his usual orchid expert Theodore Horstmann takes a leave of absence. Wolfe has heard of another expert Andrew Krasicki, who works for the Pitccairn family. He wrote to Krasicki asking him to fill in for Horstmann but got no response. Not willing to risk his beloved orchids, Wolfe takes Archie Goodwin with him and they make a personal visit to Krasicki. While they’re there, the body of Krasicki’s fiancée Dini Lauer is discovered behind a canvas in the Pitcairns’ greenhouse. Krasicki’s the most likely suspect since he admits that Dini visited him at the greenhouse the evening before. But he swears he’s innocent. If Wolfe is to bring Krasicki back with him to tend his orchids, he’s going to have to find out who really killed the victim. For Wolfe, that’s quite a motivation. See what trouble flowers can bring you?

 

Candy

 

It’s also traditional to give a box of candy on Valentine’s Day. Now, far be it from me to discourage you from supporting the chocolate industry. Really. I mean it. But chocolate can be very dangerous stuff.

Just ask Margaret de Rushbridger, who plays a role in Agatha Christie’s Three Act Tragedy (AKA Murder in Three Acts). She is a patient at a Yorkshire sanitarium run by eminent specialist Dr. Bartholomew Strange. One night, Strange suddenly dies of what turns out to be nicotine poisoning while he’s hosting a dinner party. Not long afterwards, Margaret de Rushbridger suddenly dies too, this time from chocolates poisoned by nicotine. As you might suspect, there is a connection, but not the one you may think. Hercule Poirot is already investigating Strange’s death and an earlier one that may be related. And in the end he links those deaths to that of Margaret de Rushbridger. See? If she’d just left the chocolates alone, she might have been fine.

And then there’s Anthony Berkeley’s The Poisoned Chocolates Case. Berkeley’s sleuth Roger Sheringham runs the Crimes Circle, a discussion club for those interested in crimes and their solutions. When DCI Moresby is invited to address the clue, he presents them with a fascinating case. Well-known chocolate company Mason & Sons has come out with a new variety of chocolates. As a way of garnering interest (and of course, sales), they’ve sent boxes of chocolates out to some select influential people. One of them is Sir Eustace Pennefeather Pennefeather doesn’t eat chocolate, so he passes the candy on to a fellow member of his club Graham Bendix. Bendix in turn takes the chocolate home to share with his wife Joan. Shortly thereafter, both Bendixes are sickened. Graham recovers but Joan does not. Analysis shows that the chocolates were poisoned. Moresby lays the case before the Crimes Circle and in turn, each member presents a theory of who killed Joan Bendix and why. The answer isn’t what you’d think, but it does go to show that chocolate is risky.

 

Wine

 

Very well, then, what about a bottle of fine wine? What a lovely romantic touch, right? Not so fast. Do you know how many fictional characters have been poisoned by wine?

In Colin Dexter’s The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn, Inspector Morse and Sergeant Lewis investigate the murder of Nicholas Quinn, the newest member of Oxford’s Foreign Examinations Syndicate. That’s a high-status position, as the Syndicate oversees all exams given in non-UK countries with a UK education tradition. One afternoon, Quinn is murdered with poisoned sherry and Morse and Lewis are soon on the case. It turns out that there are several suspects too. For one thing, Quinn was not a unanimous choice for the Syndicate, so the members who didn’t want him there are under suspicion. Then too, it turns out that some Syndicate members are keeping secrets that Quinn could easily have found out. In the end, Morse and Lewis track down the culprit, but it all might have been avoided if Quinn hadn’t had that sherry. I’m just saying…

And then there’s Arlette Montrose Banfield, who features in Emily Brightwell’s Victorian-Era historical novel  Mrs. Jeffries Forges Ahead. Arlette and her husband Lewis are welcoming guests to the Banfield family’s annual Ball. Everyone takes seats and soon the wine begins to flow. Suddenly Arlette dies of what turns out to be poisoned champagne. Inspector Gerald Witherspoon takes the case and he gets to work right away since the Banfield family are ‘people who matter.’ It took timing and daring, but someone managed to poison the victim in the full view of lots of witnesses. Witherspoon’s ever-efficient and capable housekeeper Mrs. Jeffries alerts her staff, and each in a different way, they help solve the case.

See what I mean? Those grand gestures can be deadly. Besides, they can be expensive. And anyway, there are lots of other great ways to show you care. Just ask Kerry Greenwood’s Corinna Chapman. She knows her lover Daniel Cohen truly cares about her. He brings her coffee in the morning. Bliss. And then there’s Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache. There’s no doubt his wife Reine-Marie loves him, and one of the ways she shows it is by helping him sort through his files and keep them organised. Now that’s an act of love. And of course there’s my personal choice for truly Great. Romantic. Gesture. Read Angela Savage’s The Half Child. Well, read it anyway, but there’s a great scene in it. Trust me.  You’re welcome. Always happy to help with romantic advice. ;-)

 

 

 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from The Bird and The Bee’s My Fair Lady.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Angela Savage, Anthony Berkeley, Colin Dexter, Emily Brightwell, Kerry Greenwood, Louise Penny, Rex Stout

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.

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