Friday, September 6, 2013

Guest Post/Review/Giveaway: The Money Bird by Sheila Webster Boneham

(*Photo courtesy of Cheryl Ertelt)
Why My Protagonist is an Animal Photographer
By Sheila Webster Boneham

Janet MacPhail, the protagonist of my Animals in Focus Mystery series, loves to shoot animals. In fact, she loves it so much that she’s made a career of it. She’s been at it for years and, as with most things, practice has made her very, very good. Her photos have won awards and appeared in books, magazines, and major ad campaigns. They also grace the walls of many a doting owner’s home.
So, out of all the professions available to an amateur sleuth in a mystery series, why did I make give Janet a camera and tell her to make it pay? I don’t suppose “why not” will cover it, so here are my top seven reasons:

  1. Janet isn’t me, but we share many interests—dogs, cats, other animals, the outdoors, art. I wanted her to be creative and to focus her creativity on animals, as I have done for many years, but I didn’t want her to be a writer. I’m an amateur photographer (meaning I know enough to be dangerous), so I gave Janet a bunch of equipment and told her to get busy.
  2. Photographers are observant, and that’s important in a sleuth.
  3. I love beautiful photographs.
  4. When I started Drop Dead on Recall, the first book in the series, I lived in Fort Wayne and had a dog-training friend, Cheryl Ertelt, who is a professional nature and animal photographer. I had been around some of her shoots with dogs, and I had heard some of her stories about crazy photo shoots, so I knew there was lots to work with there as a writer.
  5. I wanted Janet to make her own schedule so that I could put her where I want her when I want her there. That’s harder to do when we have regular work hours, but as a freelancer, Janet can pretty much do as she pleases.
  6. A camera sometimes gives the appearance of a reason to be somewhere. This can also be useful for a sleuth who might otherwise appear to be loitering—or stalking someone!
  7. Photos, like writing, have the potential to teach, to document, and to change minds. I wanted to give my protagonist that sort of personal power, whether she uses it or not.
Janet’s photography is critical to the plot of The Money Bird in several ways, and gets her into more than a little bit of trouble!

* This beautiful photo of the real Jay (above), the dog behind the lead dog in the Animals in Focus mysteries, was taken by Cheryl Ertelt, whose stories made me think that my sleuth should be an animal photographer. You can see more of Cheryl's photos at
Review: The first book in the Animals in Focus Mystery series, Drop Dead on Recall, was one of my favorite books of 2012. Leo the cat even ended up being Tara's very first interview. When the opportunity arose for me to get my hands on an early copy of book 2 I was ecstatic and am thrilled to say it lived up to my every expectation.
The action begins during a field retriever training photo shoot at Twisted Lake. Janet's boyfriend Tom's Labrador Retriever, Drake, retrieves a wet satchel with an exotic feather and torn 100 dollar bill in the bottom. Shortly after she receives a message from one of her photography students who has spotted an unusual bird at the lake, but he ends up dead before they get to talk. It appears that he accidentally drowned, but Janet knows he called her from his car and was on his way back to town. A "spiritual renewal center" that resembles more of a cult has opened up nearby, and rumor has it has applied for permission to open up an aviary on the property. Janet learns that many tropical birds are already being housed there and being fostered out to various members, and becomes convinced that all of the unusual happenings are somehow related.
The early part of this book features Janet taking pictures for A Day in the Life feature at her local vet's office where we are introduced to many interesting animals, including a wildlife detection dog, Lennen. This brings her into contact with the wife of the retreat's minister and their little monster of a daughter, not so affectionately known as "Tiffany dear". What happens between the devil's spawn and Janet will forever be remembered by those who witnessed it. It's at the same time shocking and hilarious, and confirmed why I've always preferred children of the 4-legged variety!

I understand the next book in the series revolves around a feline agility event, which I can't wait to learn more about. This is one of my very favorite animal-related cozy series on the market today.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for review.
great escape tour banner THE MONEY BIRD large new640
the money bird september

Book Details:
Genre: Traditional/Cozy Mystery
Published by:  Midnight Ink
Release Date: (September 8, 2013)
Number of Pages: 336
2nd in Series

Animal photographer Janet MacPhail knows that trouble is in the air when Labrador Retriever Drake fetches a blood-soaked bag holding an exotic feather and a torn one-hundred-dollar bill during a photo shoot at Twisted Lake. One of Janet’s photography students reports seeing a strange bird at the lake, but he turns up dead before Janet can talk to him. When she learns that the mysterious retreat center near the lake is housing large numbers of tropical birds, Janet is sure there’s a connection and decides to investigate between dog-training classes, photo assignments, and visits to her mom at Shadetree Retirement. With help from her Australian Shepherd Jay and her quirky friend Goldie, Janet is determined to get to the bottom of things before another victim’s wings are clipped for good.


About Sheila Webster Boneham
Sheila Webster Boneham is the author of 17 nonfiction books, six of which have won major awards from the Dog Writers Association of America and the Cat Writers Association. She is also the author of Drop Dead on Recall, the first in the Animals in Focus Mystery series. For the past two decades Boneham has been showing her Australian Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers in various canine sports. She has also bred top-winning Aussies, and founded rescue groups for Aussies and Labs. Boneham holds a doctorate in folklore from Indiana University and resides outside of Wilmington, N.C.

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Purchase Links:
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Acemommy said...

This sounds great!

dollycas aka Lori said...

I am so glad you were able to be part of this tour!! Thank you!!

Sally Carpenter said...

Is that Fort Wayne, Indiana? I lived there for five years many, many years ago. An animal photographer sounds like a great professional. Some of her subjects are probably more cooperative than people. Good luck with the book!

Unknown said...

It is indeed, Sally! I grew up in Ft. Wayne and have lived there off and on as an adult. One of the benefits of having a photographer as protagonist is that her travels give me a chance to show off what a beautiful, diverse state Indiana is. Too many people think it's nothing more than flat fields of corn and beans. Thanks for stopping by!

Sue said...

My pets--2 beagles and 2 cats---all of them are family to me so I love cozies with animals.

Unknown said...

Sue, that sounds like a fun bunch. And of course they're family! Thanks for stopping by!

Unknown said...

My Mother and I live together. We have a peek-a-poo and she's the diva of the house. Our household is strictly run by her and she is pampered in every way. I was the one to name her. Every one was giving me names, but I think I gave her the right name, Prissy.

Unknown said...

Yes, the little guys can put themselves in charge, Barbara. Cute name. ;-)

Brooke Showalter said...

We have four cats: Cullen, Punky, Abbey and Scuttle.

Bobbye Hope said...

I have 2 spoiled Yorkies ;)