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Unveiling the Method: Canine Mystery Writer Offers Insights into Crafting her Captivating Stories

People love reading mysteries that feature dogs as fundamental characters or sidekicks. COURTESY PHOTOS

Are dogs a detective’s best friend? That appears to be the case based on the various cozy mystery series that feature dogs as sidekicks, partners, and inspiration to gumshoes and amateur sleuths alike. (Take a look at a listing here: uexpress.com/pets/ pet-connection/2016/4/25)

Sometimes dogs narrate the story from their very own unique viewpoint; sometimes, they’re involved in taking down the bad guy due to their keen sense of smell or other singular canine characteristics; and sometimes, they’re the catalyst, unleashing the motion through their role as kidnap victims, dog sport competitors, or grooming clients, among the many many alternative setups and settings that deal with dogs.

Cozies — a subgenre of mysteries — often have a light-weight tone and humor, even when a murder is involved. And frequently, the person solving the crime isn’t knowledgeable — well, not knowledgeable detective, anyway.

Dogs add the right touch for numerous reasons. We confer with them, they usually help us think things through — the sort of help every detective needs. And so they’re as entertaining in fiction as they’re in life.

“Anyone who lives with dogs knows they’ve a lot personality,” says Laurien Berenson, bestselling writer of the Melanie Travis mystery series, which she began writing in 1995. “Dogs are characters. If you’re walking across the house and your dogs are with you, you’re — no less than at my house — having a conversation with them, they usually are responding of their way. It’s like having someone to bounce things off of.”

Berenson’s fundamental character, Melanie Travis, is a special education teacher and mom who also shows her standard poodles. Melanie’s dogs are her pets, Berenson says, so when things occur, the dogs are generally involved, even in the event that they aren’t necessarily helping her solve mysteries. They don’t speak as in the event that they’re human or narrate the story like Spencer Quinn’s canine character Chet; as an alternative, they behave like dogs.

Berenson comes from a dog-showing family herself and was showing standard and miniature poodles on the time she began writing mysteries, so including the dogs was natural. “I had at all times gone to dog shows, and it just made sense to me that this was a extremely good milieu,” she says.

Poodles aren’t the one dogs in Berenson’s books. Her editor didn’t wish to have poodles on the quilt of each book, so she began working in other breeds. One book, set in Kentucky, had a Jack Russell terrier because that breed is commonly seen in stables. “Sometimes I start with a breed and go, ‘Hey, that will be fun,’ and work out construct a plot around it. And sometimes I do know what the plot’s going to be, and a breed will just step up and be a natural for it.”

Berenson has a dog-themed spinoff of the Melanie Travis series featuring Melanie’s opinionated Aunt Peg, a dog show judge, and Peg’s sweet sister-in-law Rose. In “Peg and Rose Stir Up Trouble,” which got here out in July, poodles abound because the two senior sleuths set out to unravel the seemingly accidental death of Peg’s recent beau.

Berenson’s latest Melanie Travis book, “A Furry Little Christmas,” got here out in late September and combines two previous holiday-themed stories in a single book, making it an ideal stocking stuffer for the dog-loving mystery reader in your life.

In case you’re concerned about finding more pet-themed mysteries, I just finished reading Hugo Award finalist “The Spare Man” by Mary Robinette Kowal, a sci-fi riff on Dashiell Hammett’s “The Thin Man.” It’s set on a cruise ship to Mars and incorporates a delightful West Highland white terrier service dog named Gimlet, who plays a very important role in bringing down the villain. And to offer cat lovers a good shake, I’m going to be turning the pages of “The Cat Who Wasn’t a Dog” by Marian Babson. ¦

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