Animals and Cozy Mysteries
By Victoria Hamilton
It just seems a natural fit, animals in cozy mysteries, doesn’t it? Pets, be they cats, dogs, birds, bunnies or some other species (I’d be interested in a mystery featuring a pet alligator, wouldn’t you?) are such a big part of many of our lives, that it is natural they should show up in novels. But for the writer there are decisions to be made regarding how you are going to use the pets and other critters.
Will you go the way of Rita Mae Brown and have your animals as fully participatory members of the mystery solving team, like Mrs. Murphy and her buddies. The author could even take it further and have the cat or dog be completely understood by its owner! What pet lover doesn’t talk to their animal, right?
But even some authors who don’t indulge their whimsy in talking cats or dogs do have the animals become mystery solving geniuses, as Lilian Jackson Braun did with Koko and Yum-Yum in ‘The Cat Who…’ series. Koko, at least, was always the first one to sense the truth and sniff it out! Unless you count Jim’s moustache which could, I suppose, fall under the heading of ‘pet’ since he petted it and trusted it to tell him something hinky was up.
At the other end of the spectrum, some writers prefer to have the cat (usually!) just be a mysterious presence, or a real pet in every sense of the word, like in the Death On Demand mysteries.
Many mystery writers, though, prefer to go the way of having the pets become a part of the mystery solving in at least a peripheral way. As an author who includes animals in every one of my series, I think I stride that middle path. In my Vintage Kitchen Mysteries, though crabby tabby Denver is only lightly involved (he is responsible for Jaymie finding a clue in A Deadly Grind), Hoppy the three-legged Yorkie-Poo certainly takes a more central role, and not only points to clues on occasion, he even saves Jaymie’s life from time to time!
So in Bran New Death, Book 1 of the Merry Muffin Mysteries, I was not sure what part I wanted Becket, the stately cat, to play. When you meet him, I will be interested to learn if you appreciate the hardy feline’s position and behavior. Is he a mystery solving mastermind? Or merely a shadowy presence?
I love animals, and appreciate their presence in mystery novels, but for my own taste, I prefer they don’t talk. However I’m truly interested in what other readers think: do you like animals in mysteries? Do you want them to talk? Do you hope they play a part in the mystery solving, or would you prefer they stay on the sideline? Your opinions and likes can definitely influence writers, so make your views known. We’re listening!
Widow Merry Wynter is unemployed after losing her job with a NYC supermodel, so she makes plans to sell the castle she inherited from her uncle in Autumn Vale, New York. Easier said than done - it needs work, including a backyard filled with holes! Soon rumors begin that her uncle killed his business partner, and that his own death may not have been an accident. When the business partner's son is found dead in one of the holes, Merry realizes she has a mess on her hands. With the help of her best friend and her real estate agent, Merry attempts to wade through a list of suspects in the quirkiest town you'll find in mystery fiction where absolutely nothing is as it appears on the surface.
My favorite secondary character has to be bank employee Isadore Openshaw, who lives with her cats and rides a bicycle reminiscent of Miss Gulch in Wizard of Oz. And Uncle Melvyn's mysterious cat Becket plays an important role in leading Merry to clues.
By the end of the book much is resolved but much is not. I look forward to watching Merry make her castle home. I know I would love to spend some time there munching on muffins!
Bran New Death, Book 1 of the Merry Muffin Mystery series by Victoria Hamilton, (Berkley Prime Crime) is out September 3rd!
Bran New Death: When Merry Wynter discovered that she inherited a genuine American Castle in the ‘wilds’ of upstate New York, her first reaction was to contact a real estate agent to sell it, sight unseen. Things were a little complicated, what with a lunatic employer making her life miserable. But after losing her job and with the castle not sold, Merry decides to trek to Wynter Castle to see what the problem is.
One barrier to selling is immediately evident; someone is digging giant holes on the property! Merry accuses local Tom Turner of being her late night gopher and warns him to stay off her property, or else, but it happens again. Merry storms out to confront whomever is doing the damage, but doesn’t count on finding a dead man at the bottom of the hole.
What is going on at Wynter Castle and in Autumn Vale? How can Merry convince hunky sheriff Virgil Grace that she is not the one who bashed the victim over the head?
Check out Bran New Death and Victoria Hamilton’s other series, the Vintage Kitchen Mysteries.
Website & Purchase Links: Victoria Hamilton Mysteries
Merry Muffin Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/MerrysMuffinsMysterySeries
Victoria Hamilton, nationally bestselling author of the Vintage Kitchen Mystery series, is the pseudonym of Donna Lea Simpson, bestselling author of romance and historical mystery novels.
Victoria starting reading mystery novels at the age of 12 and devoured Agatha Christie mysteries, as well as those of Dorothy L. Sayers and Ngaio Marsh. She still adores mysteries, especially the cozy mysteries of Janet Bolin, Krista Davis, and others.
She loves to cook, and collects teapots and teacups, as well as vintage kitchen utensils and bowls. She also enjoys crafts, especially cross-stitching and crocheting, and spends summer days in the garden, drinking tea or wine. Besides the Merry Muffin Mystery series (Bran New Death – September 3rd) Victoria writes two other mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime, the Vintage Kitchen Mystery series (Book 3, Freezer I’ll Shoot debuts November 5th) and the Teapot Collector Mystery series which debuts with Tempest in a Teapot, out June 3rd, 2014.
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