by Cynthia Chow
This week we have another fun animal related mystery, this one by Dixie Lyle. We also have an interview with Dixie, and then a chance to win a copy of the book at the end of this post.
A Taste Fur Murder By Dixie Lyle
Review by Cynthia Chow
Deidre “Foxtrot” Lancaster is used to facing disaster with an optimistic approach and easygoing smile; even if it is through gritted teeth. As administrative assistant – or chaos manager, as Foxtrot prefers – for the extremely wealthy Zelda Zoransky, Foxtrot is charged maintaining order over the estate, which includes a pool, private zoo, and a mansion where ZZ hosts regular salon gatherings of eclectic celebrities, personalities, and other academics who stay for a week and attend her nightly dinners of what can politely be described as “lively” discourses. The estate as well encompasses a private graveyard of generations’ worth of pets and the occasional cremated human companion, and there Foxtrot enjoys relaxing and getting away from the disruptions that inevitably ensue at the mansion.
That all changes when one day as she cuts through the graveyard Foxtrot unexpectedly meets the reincarnated form of her pet cat Tango, who died ten years ago, as well as a ghostly dog who changes into any breed of his choosing. Upon realizing that she can actually communicate not only with them but with all other deceased pets, Foxtrot does what any practical, reasonable minded woman who prides herself on the ability to deal with crises on a daily basis would do; she pops three tranquilizers and goes to bed.
Unfortunately, she awakens with the discovery that nothing has changed and Tango and the shape-shifting Mr. Tiny inform Foxtrot that she has been charged with protecting the animal graveyard and that she must protect ZZ from an impending attack that will endanger it. They’re all a little too late, though, as they discover that a misguided attack has the collateral effect of taking out another staff member while leaving ZZ still imperiled.
This is wonderfully charming, unique, and delightfully original mystery; with bite. Without ever becoming too cutesy the characters spar with wordplay – but never bad puns – and make ample use of the traditional rivalry between cats and dogs. As the corporal but deceased canine Tiny comments: [Ah, yes. The rigorous demands of the feline lifestyle. How do you mange on only sixteen hours of sleep per day?] And on becoming accustomed to living with cats: [The best you can do is build up a tolerance. It’s akin to smashing your head into a rock until your skull starts to go numb.]
The dialogue between Foxtrot and the guests as she and her two assistants attempt to investigate the death and prevent ZZ’s is extremely witty, and Foxtrot banters deftly with a rock star suitor who tests her patience but never her intelligence. A hesitant and very mysterious chef as well manages to entrap her on a date when the always-happy-to-please Foxtrot is too befuddled to come up with a usual excuse. Foxtrot excels as following strategic planning to manipulate her way into achieving her goals though a kind of verbal Kung Fu, and this new intrusive ability completely derails her normal complacency and ability to seamlessly roll with the punches. That the author manages to introduce so many paranormal aspects and have them blend realistically into the story can be attributed to skillful writing that never fails to entertain. This is an extraordinarily humorous but never outlandish mystery that uses acerbic and dry wit to disguise its sentimental heart.
Interview With Dixie Lyle:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Dixie: This particular sentence started a few hours ago, but then I got a phone call and I needed another coffee and I went to a movie and met an old friend on the street and went for drinks and then I came home and had to look up the definition of a run-on sentence before I could put a period on the sucker.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? A little about it?
Dixie: The novel is A Taste Fur Murder. It’s the first in a series called the Whisky, Tango and Foxtrot Mysteries. It came out in February of 2014 and is about a reincarnated cat (Tango), a ghost dog (Whisky), and a Gal Friday (Foxtrot) to an eccentric billionaire. They solve mysteries and protect the animal graveyard adjacent to the mansion Foxtrot works in.
KRL: I didn’t realize this was your first book. Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Dixie: I dabble in many areas. I have been known to write anything from science fiction to westerns. Writing, however, does not always mean selling.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Dixie: I’m primarily an entertainer, but all writing needs a heart. The heart of the WTF Mysteries is that love beats death—that the bond between two living beings survives beyond their physical expiration date.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Dixie: I have a small child, so I write whenever I can.
KRL: if you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Dixie: I was actually very lucky. I had a local author take me under his wing and get my first proposal some real consideration. It wound up selling.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Dixie: I sold my first short story, a horror piece, on Friday the 13th with a full moon in the sky. It was about an unusual dog.
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Dixie: I had someone at a signing tell me an essay I’d written made them want to give me a hug. So we hugged. It was nice. I still have their wallet!
KRL: Future writing goals?
Dixie: I’d really like to do something in comics.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Dixie: Neil Gaiman, Christopher Moore, Spider Robinson, Mike Carey, John D. McDonald, Lee Child . . . too many to list, really.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Dixie: My Google-Fu is strong. You can find out anything these days. It’s like living in the future, only with fewer flying cars and more porn.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Dixie: Anything done by Joss Whedon. Loved Breaking Bad and Lost. Justified is also brilliant–some of the best dialogue on TV.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Dixie: Fingernails. Grow ‘em long and tough, because you’re going to be hanging on by them for a long, long time.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Dixie: Nah, I’m terrible at math. There are a few people I wouldn’t subtract, though.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Dixie: I am actually just a figment of my own imagination.
KRL: Anyone who has ever lost a beloved pet can sympathize with Foxtrot’s connection to her late tuxedo cat Tango. Was that relationship inspired by anything personal?
Dixie: Sure. I’m an animal lover, one of those people who can’t really decide between cats or dogs. I’ve owned both (though I currently don’t have either) and I know firsthand how much a part of your life they become–and how much it hurts to lose them.
KRL: Your book contains an extraordinary amount of information about animals and their care. Do you have a professional background in animal ministration or rescues?
Dixie: Nope. Just good at research.
KRL: Private zoos only seem to get attention in the news when something goes drastically wrong. Do you have an opinion on how, or even whether, they should operate?
Dixie: The zoos in the news often have the blues. They should pay more attention to reading Doctor Seuss; that guy was great and he invented the Whos! I’m sorry. I have a four-year-old.
KRL: Puns and the manipulation of language are spread throughout the novel and add so much humor. How did you come to appreciate puns? Was there a literary inspiration?
Dixie: My father is the one that instilled my love of puns. Blame him. I should also add that Spider Robinson, also an inveterate punster, is one of my favorite writers.
KRL: A lot of humor also comes from the relationship and interactions between feline Tango and canine Mr. Tiny. How much fun was it to create their voices and thoughts? Or was it more challenging than fun?
Dixie: It was huge fun. I love creating characters like that; they just come to life in my head. Writing their dialogue is the easiest and most enjoyable part.
KRL: In your mystery animals often seem as neurotic as humans. Amos the capuchin monkey hits the booze pretty hard. Is that a fault of our influence, or would they be as “quirky” on their own in the wild?
Dixie: Animals have their own personalities, and they can definitely be just as weird as us. I once watched a squirrel playing with an empty plastic water bottle for a good twenty minutes, and it was amazing. Backflips, somersaults and the most incredible gymnastics you ever saw, all while holding this bottle in his teeth. He was clearly doing it simply for fun.
KRL: Who, or what, inspired you to write this mystery? What do you love to read?
Dixie: I like to read all sorts of things: comics, thrillers, mysteries, science fiction, horror, comedies. In this book, I was blending a bunch of different things, a “cozy” mystery, the paranormal, and a kind of madcap, screwball sensibility that’s just fun to read.
To enter to win a copy of A Taste Fur Murder, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Fur,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen Ma, 20y 314. U.S. residents only.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.