Paws for Murder: A Pet Boutique Mystery By Annie Knox: Review/Interview/Giveaway

Jan 11, 2014 | 2014 Articles, Cynthia Chow, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Cynthia Chow

This week we have another fun pet related mystery, Paws for Murder by Annie Knox. We also have an interview with Annie and there are details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of this post.

Paws for Murder: A Pet Boutique Mystery By Annie Knox

Review by Cynthia Chow

Pet fashionista was definitely not Izzy McHale’s career of choice when she began her degree at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Izzy had always planned to be a fashion designer in New York, but after marrying her high school crush, Casey Alter, her education and career took a sideline while she supported him through medical school, residency and a new plastic surgery practice back in their hometown of Merryville, Minnesota. The shocking news that after fourteen years, Casey was leaving her for the new dietician stunned Izzy into depression and inertia, until her landlady and part-time employer strongly encourages Izzy to create Trendy Tails, a specialty pet boutique that would allow her to use her design and sewing skills to create all manner of companion clothing.

This animal-loving store would seem to be the last place for an animal protestor, but Shelly Harper–all the while toting her pet guinea pig in a catch-all carrying sling–declares that clothing animals is abusive and against their nature. Shelly has a well-deserved reputation for having too much time and money and not enough common sense, but eventually Izzy is able to coax the woman out the door with a bribery of food and treats. Unfortunately, one of those treats is responsible for poisoning Shelly, and her death has the police targeting Izzy’s best friend, Rena Hamilton. While Izzy at first believes that the suspicion stems from prejudice towards Rena’s purple hair and a distinct resemblance to someone who might sacrifice chickens or shiv you in an alley for drugs, Izzy is stunned to learn that Rena had a much darker connection to Shelly and a very strong motive for murder.

It gets more shocking for Izzy when Rena calls her attorney and it turns out to be Sean Tucker, the boy whose heart Izzy broke as a teenager, but who has himself moved on both professionally and personally. Knowing that the police have set their sights on Rena, Izzy and Sean team up to investigate those who were deeply affected by Shelly’s naïve, all encompassing and very determined moral stand.

While there are definitely cutely adorned animals involved and Izzy’s bulldog/pug will be adorned with motorcycle boots, deeper themes resonate throughout this charming novel. Drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and the recovery from all three factor into the plot and bring a strong level of realism to this very non-fluffy novel.

Friendship, how the relationships evolve and how we sometimes stop seeing those changes are all topics gracefully and humorously explored. Izzy has a very opinionated family, but the sibling spats and motherly concern stem from love and concern, not condescension.

This debut series is penned by Wendy Lyn Watson, who also authors the funny and delectable Mysteries a La Mode ice cream-themed series and so recipes at the end are tasty treats targeted towards humans. Animal lovers who love to pamper their pets will enjoy this mystery that highlights the relationships of family and friends and while some struggle against their roots, they may ultimately find home in the place they once so desired to escape.

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

Interview with Annie Knox

KRL: How long have you been writing?

Annie: I started writing in earnest–with an eye toward publication–in summer of 2001.

KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? A little about it?

Annie: My first novel was actually the third I had written. It was called I Scream, You Scream, came out in 2009, and was the first in a short series of mysteries about a woman who owns an ice cream parlor in a small Texas town.

KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?

Annie:I started off writing romance, primarily because I read a lot of it, but my heroes and heroines were always tripping over dead bodies, and I eventually realized I was born to write mysteries.

KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Please tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.

Annie Knox

Annie:I had a great time writing about the residents of Merryville, Minnesota. I lived in Minnesota for a number of years, so I felt comfortable with the setting and the upper Midwest is the definition of cozy for me (must be all the potlucks). My sleuth, Isobel “Dizzy Izzy” McHale, has just opened a boutique for pets called Trendy Tails. She’s surrounded by friends and family, and I just loved trying to capture those dynamics (mother/daughter, sisters, friends, and even an old love).

KRL: Why did you choose to do a pet related mystery?

Annie:Honestly, it’s something my editor suggested. At first I was worried that it would be hard to work them into the plots, but they turn out to be helpful little detectives. Since I love animals so much, I get a kick out of giving them their personalities and making them more than just props.

KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?

Annie:I definitely have to schedule time. My day job–teaching government to college kids–could easily consume my life if I didn’t purposefully carve out time to write.

KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?

Annie:I do outline, in a pretty detailed way. Sometimes, though, I’ll have an idea for a scene and I’ll tuck it away in an MSWord file and worry later about working it into the book. In other words, I have a plan; I just don’t always stick to it!

KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?

Annie:I’m a morning person. I’m most alert and most creative from about 8 to noon. Alas, I’m usually teaching during those hours.

KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?

Annie:Heavens, yes! It’s a brutal industry, and writing a good book just isn’t enough. You have to get the right manuscript in front of the right editor at just the right time (and a lot of that is pure luck). Once you get that first book published, it’s much easier to get more contracts –but there are still plenty of rejections along the way.

KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?

Annie:When I was shopping my first novel (the historical romance) around, one of the editors I submitted to, spent a page telling me why my book just didn’t work. She ended with “Have you considered writing mysteries?” She could see it before I did.

KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?

Annie:I don’t know if it counts as “interesting,” but I did a signing with another author at a tiny bookstore in our area. In order to make it more interactive, we did a chocolate tasting. I did tons of research, made up tasting cards, and bought some very expensive chocolate. The bookstore owner said she’d had thirty RSVPs, and I was so excited. Then, alas, it stormed. Heck, it was like a monsoon. No one showed up, so the staff, my fellow author and I binged on high end chocolate.

KRL: Future writing goals?

Annie:I have another cozy series I would like to see published, and then I’d like to try my hand at suspense. There’s a different rhythm to a suspense novel, and I would like to see if I can catch it.

KRL: Writing heroes?

Annie:The writers–superstars, mid-listers, and aspiring authors–who write every single solitary day. I only wish I had that kind of dedication.

KRL: What kind of research do you do?

Annie:Most of my research is online. Thanks to online forums and Facebook groups, I can reach experts and get all my questions answered quickly (which is good, because I often need to ask the question at 10 p.m.).

KRL: What do you read?

Annie:I do read mysteries and suspense, but I also love historical romance and science fiction (the more science-y, the better).

KRL: Favorite TV or movies?

Annie:I watch a fair amount of reality TV, but I’m embarrassed to open that window on my world. I like gritty dramas like Homeland, The Walking Dead, The Americans, Breaking Bad, and House of Cards. It’s exciting to see that kind of quality writing and acting on the small screen.

KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?

Annie:Be yourself. Don’t try to mimic the story or voice of some other writer out there. If you do, then the act of writing will feel more like putting on a mask than opening your heart. You’ve got to write with authenticity.

KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Annie:In addition to writing and teaching, there’s another career in my deep dark past: I was a lawyer. I guess I am a lawyer–it’s not something you outgrown–but I don’t practice anymore. People are often surprised because I’m extremely non-confrontational; I break a lot of stereotypes about lawyers.

KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?

Twitter: @annieknoxauthor
FB: annieknoxauthor

KRL: How do you compete in an overcrowded market?

Annie: Wow. That’s a tough question. I try to write like me, writing what I would want to read rather than what other people are writing. I think that’s the only way to set yourself apart, and then you just hope that your real voice is popular enough to get people reading your work.

To enter to win a copy of Paws for Murder, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Paws,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 18, 2014. U.S. residents only.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.


  1. Enjoyed the interview. Please consider me for the giveaway.

  2. I have read Ms. Knox’s first book and enjoyed it. I would love to read the new book involving pets as I am an avid lover of animals.

  3. Sounds like an interesting book.

  4. Interesting type of mystery

  5. My type of book.

  6. I like a cozy with meaningful themes and appreciate that this book appears to touch on rebuilding one’s life after escaping from domestic violence. Thanks for the chance to win a copy of PAWS FOR MURDER! Best wishes to the author for continued success.

  7. I love the title “Paws for Murder” and would love to win. Definitely my type of book.

  8. We have a winner
    Lorie Ham, KRL Publisher



  1. Groomed for Murder: A Pet Boutique Mystery By Annie Knox | Kings River Life Magazine - […] out our review of Paws for Murder, a previous book in this series, along with an interview with […]

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