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