Four Paws Up for ‘Paw Enforcement’ by Diane Kelly

The gist: A hapless Fort Worth cop, Megan Lutz, nearly loses her job after tasering her insufferable partner. She reluctantly partners up with a canine cop and signs up for anger-management classes. Probably a good idea since she’s prone to kicking her sexist colleagues where it counts! But hey, who could blame her? While working the shopping mall beat, she and her four-legged sleuth, Bridget, find themselves in the crosshairs of the next Unabomber…or I should say Tuna-bomber! When they’re not chasing down skate-boarding mall rats or writing out speeding tickets, our intrepid sleuths must ferret out the homegrown terrorist before the whole mall goes up in smoke!

What worked: Lately I’ve been getting really tired of these cozy mysteries starring prim and proper sleuths with little to no bad habits and character flaws. Their good manners and even-keeled dispositions don’t add much to the story or to their likability. I need a character who’s riddled with flaws, self-doubt and terrible habits. And I’m happy to say Megan Lutz is that character!  I love that she’s struggling with anger issues (I feel ya, girl!) and her ability to succeed in a male-dominated profession. She drives a tiny Smart Car, cries uncontrollably in the bathtub (with her furry sidekick by her side) and is a tad OCD about her diet. This girl is a bit of a mess—and I love her all the more for it!

Bass Master, a recently adopted Austin Pets Alive dog, gave this book four paws up!

At first I was a little put off by her reluctance to partner up with a big, gorgeous and somewhat sassy canine cop . But thankfully I soon learned that she’s a dog-lover at heart. It was a lot of fun watching their love story unfold. Nothing gets past these two crackerjack detectives—especially with Bridget’s drug-sniffing super powers!

What didn’t work: I love that Bridget gets to narrate a few chapters here and there—but those chapters are too short! I simply need more Bridget! Wouldn’t it be great if she could have her very own spinoff novella? Perhaps a murder mystery that delves deeper into her tragic backstory? Bass Master and I would love to know more about her journey from a downtrodden shelter dog to ace detective. Hint hint, Miss Kelly!

Overall: This is a fabulous series that is sure to win the hearts of mystery fans and dog lovers alike! The mystery is fun, but it’s the characters that pull me into the story.  So if you like humorous (but not slapstick), character-driven mysteries, this book is for you.

Derek’s Book of the Month: Woof by Spencer Quinn

PicMonkey CollageMove over, Lassie—there’s a new four-legged hero in town! Bowser’s his name and fighting crime is his game. Well actually his top priority is loving up on his little gal pal, Birdie. You see, this book is more than just a mystery. It’s a love story between a girl and her dog.  Derek (the handsome boy pictured above) thoroughly enjoyed watching their friendship come into full blossom throughout this puzzling little mystery. He hopes that maybe one day a cute little tomboy will stop by his kennel at Austin Pets Alive and insist on taking him home!

Like a shelter dog, Birdie feels lonely and out of sorts at her grandmother’s house in the Florida everglades. Her father died, leaving her mom with no other option than to work far away at an oil rig to make ends meet. Good thing her cantankerous grandma let her pick out a dog for her birthday—pretty much the best gift a kid could ever ask for! But Bowser isn’t just any dog. He’s a natural crime-fighter with a penchant for sniffing out clues. Whether he’s battling a behemoth alligator or chasing after a gun-wielding kidnapper, Bowser will stop at nothing to track down the perps and keep his little lady out of harm’s way.

The idea of a mystery narrated by a dog may seem a little silly—but fans of the author’s beloved Chet and Bernie series know that this style really works. Character development is everything. If you don’t’ care about the heroes of the story, why bother? That said, I dare you to read this book and not fall for Bowser and Birdie. Same goes for Chet and Bernie—a series I implore you to check out if you haven’t already! The love Bowser feels for Birdie is so powerful, and his soul is so pure and good. Sounds corny, but the author delivers this sugary goodness in a way that doesn’t give me a toothache.  It’s rather silly, but I got a little misty eyed when Birdie turned to Bowser as her only source of comfort. Back in the day, I wanted more than anything to have a dog just for this reason. Maybe that’s why this book really struck gold with me. I could see so much of myself in Birdie. She was at a point in her life when she knew that adults couldn’t be trusted—a rite of passage we all must go through at some point or another. Needless to say, it was her and Bowser against the world.

Their adventures begin when a stuffed fish goes missing from grandma’s bait shop. Unable to turn away from a good mystery, Birdie and Bowser go searching for clues to the missing marlin—breaking a lot of rules in the process…like not sneaking out at night and accidentally swimming in alligator infested waters! The dangers intensify when Bowser and Birdie find a connection between an old family rivalry and hidden treasure.

Although this book is for the youngsters, it’s sure to please readers of all ages who enjoy a good whodunit. And, of course, it’s a total win for dog lovers. In addition to the loveable characters and fast-pace plotting, the writing is—in Bowser’s words—off the charts! Just as I love how Spencer Quinn paints the Arizona desert scenery in his Chet and Bernie series, I really enjoyed his descriptions of the muggy Florida swamplands. Derek and I hope this will be the beginning of a new series so we can revisit grandma’s old bait shop and join these two adorable sleuths on their next adventure!

I should also note that like Bowser, Derek knows how to take a bite out of crime! Take him home and you’ll be safe, protected and loved forever and always! Hop on over to his bio page for more details.

Chihuahua of the Baskervilles by Esri Allbritten

How in the world did this author know how to package my most favorite things – adorable little costume-clad dogs, ghosts and travel writing – into an off-the-wall who dunnit? It’s almost eerie how this book seems to be tailor-made just for little ol’ me!  With a title like this,  how could I go wrong?

Fortunately the book met my expectations – and then some! Although Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes and Watson don’t make an appearance, there’s a Scooby Doo-like team of travel-writing ghost hunters on the case. Struggling to keep Tripping Magazine afloat, the trio of freelancers take on a rather unusual case involving the ghost of a dearly departed Chihuahua who’s haunting his mistress, Charlotte Baskerville.

 Set in the charming town of Manitou Springs – home of the famous coffin races – the mystery unfolds when Charlotte encounters the ghost of her long-dead pup wandering her home’s grounds at night. The owner and operator of a successful doggie clothing boutique, Charlotte is surrounded by family and friends, or shall I say frenemies, who don’t all seem to have her best interests at heart. 

One particularly despicable character is Thomas, Charlotte’s curmudgeon husband who insists that she’s going senile. Ashamed by his inability to keep the family business afloat, Thomas is threatened by his wife’s success and even has the nerve to mock her adorable doggie outfits. What a creep! Although he claims to be concerned about her mental competence, it seems as though he’s more interested in her money than her wellbeing. 

When Petey’s luminescent apparition (which appears to be doused in glow-in-the-dark makeup) begins to bark cryptic messages sounding suspiciously like “divorce Thomas,” the trio of travel writers begin to wonder if someone in the Baskerville houehold is toying with Charlotte to get their paws on her fortune. And when Charlotte doesn’t heed the warnings, Thomas ends up dead.

 Are supernatural forces at work? Or is this a case of old-fashioned murder? Let’s take a look at our suspects and their celebrity look-alikes.

Charlotte: Could this all be a facade to promote her fashion line? Perhaps this sweet little old lady is responsible for her husband’s death. Who could blame her?

 

 

Ivan: A fame-hungry dog trainer who works with Charlotte and her four-legged fashion models. Obsessed with becoming the next Cesar Milan, this Russian brute will stop at nothing to get his own TV show. 

 

 
Ellen: Charlotte’s best friend and colleague. Although she’s grateful Charlotte took her in during a rough patch, Ellen wants to be a business partner, not a hired hand. As the lead designer and manufacturer of Petey’s Closet, she deserves a lot more than a meager salary and she’s about to reach a breaking point. Is she angry enough to scare Charlotte to death? And why is her sink spotted with glow-in-the-dark paint?

Bob: Charlotte’s nosey neighbor who’s obsessed with acai berries. A fledgling entrepreneur, he’s constantly pestering Charlotte to help him peddle his “cancer-fighting” dog food line “Petey’s Pride.”

 

  
Cheri: Charlotte’s alcoholic granddaughter who seems to be falling off the wagon. After another stint in rehab, the dark-haired beauty is recovering, or shall I say mooching, at Charlotte’s grand estate. Although she seems sweet and interested in helping her grandmother market her goods, something isn’t quite right. Is she trying to get her life back in order, or is she transporting evidence in those mysterious boxes when she sneaks out of the house in the dead of night?


Lila and Chum:
Charlotte’s two beloved Chihuahuas. Yes these pups are cute and cuddly. But are they using their charming good looks to get under Charlotte’s skin? Ha ha – just kidding! Dogs could never be capable of murder….cats, however, are another story.

It all comes to a head at the Emma Caufield Coffin Race, which is a real thing in Manitou Springs. Apparently a young girl named Emma Caufield died of turburculosis back in the early 1900s. Her coffin, which was buried on the slope of a mountain, became unearthed during a storm and slid downstream into town. Legend has it she was later buried in an unmarked grave and her ghost haunts the slopes of Red Mountain. Some say she won’t rest until her body is returned to the gravesite she chose for herself. So to commemorate her spirit, the townsfolk of Manitou Springs put on a big coffin race every year with costumes and tricked out caskets – how cool is that! Man, and I thought Austin was weird.

If you, like me, love adorable little dogs, ghosts, eccentric characters, and punchy one-liners, check this one out. It’s a lot of fun and a great book to curl up with on a cold winter’s night. I’m excited to see what happens when the travel writers investigate their next case involving two sisters and a haunted painting. Do I smell a series? I hope so!