by Cynthia Chow
& Sue Owens Wright
This week we have a review of Sue Owens Wright’s latest Beanie and the Cruiser mystery Braced For Murder, a fun guest post by Sue about her love affair with Basset Hounds & you can enter to win a copy of Braced For Murder-details at the end of this post.
Braced For Murder: A Beanie and Cruiser Mystery By Sue Owens Wright
Review by Cynthia Chow
A freelance reporter for the Tahoe Tattler and full-time advocate for basset hounds, Elsie “Beanie” MacBean finds herself unable to be objective when covering the story of Lakeside Animal Shelter and its inhumane conditions. Her empathy also prevents her from ignoring an unadopted “problem” basset hound named Calamity who more than lives up to her name but whose imminent death sentence has Beanie taking on the adorable hound and her less than attractive talents of destruction. It’s an adoption that could have come at a better time, as Beanie is already committed to volunteering for the Bassetille Day Basset Waddle that will raise funds for a new no-kill shelter.
The problems of over crowdedness, uncleanliness, and mismanagement pale in comparison to Beanie’s discovery of the body of Rhoda Marx, the cruel manager of the pet shelter she managed to get dubbed “Auschwitz for animals.” A heartless bureaucrat, Rhoda’s shelter still implemented brutally primitive CO suffocation chambers to euthanize pets and her haste in sentencing her furry inmates to death led to the premature killing of Roberta Finch’s beloved basset Gilda, a known runner who would have been returned to her home had Rhoda taken the time to check Gilda for a microchip. That Beanie believes the shelter to be haunted by the ghost of Gilda has her friends more than a little concerned, especially when combined with her absolutely hatred for Rhoda. Added into the mix is the extremist group TAILS, the Tahoe Animal Impoundment Liberation Society led by Tori Thatcher and who has few qualms about putting the fate of animals first. In regard to the murder of the woman who ironically met her fate in the same chamber where she had doomed so many animals, the question isn’t who would have killed Rhoda, but who wouldn’t.
Beanie’s good friend Sheriff Skip Cassidy is on the case, but he has his own distractions in the form of a brand new former Playboy centerfold deputy who has him dancing around sexual harassment lawsuits in the department. The break-ins at Beanie’s home, the release of animals at a shelter by activists that frees a pack of aggressive strays, and a lively town meeting concerning the new animal shelter all make the normally placid Lake Tahoe community a dangerous place to live.
As Beanie wonders if one of her animal-friendly friends is guilty of a very human murder, her supermodel daughter Nona comes home for a visit with unfortunate health concerns and wanting to look to their old Washoe healing traditions for the help that modern medicine may not be able to provide. There is nothing Beanie will not do for her daughter, even if it means reaching out to her nemesis Sonseah Littlefeather, the tribal elder who organizes a Native American Church ceremony for them with hilarious results when their use of traditional–and not entirely legal–medicine lands them all in the pokey due to an overly enthusiastic deputy.
This is a must-read for anyone who loves their mysteries to be filled with humor, love of animals, and characters who are charming and likable. Beanie is accompanied by her trusty rescue basset hound Cruiser, but it looks as though their patience will be tried by the stubborn, focused, and extremely strategic Calamity. The author balances her viewpoint that focuses on the need to protect pets in humane shelters with the extreme animal liberation protestors whose practices endanger both humans and animals with their acts of violence. Also revelatory are the practices of past and new, more humane animal shelters, and a highlight of the novel is the fundraiser that has bassets outfitted in possibly embarrassing but extremely entertaining costumes.
Since the subtitle to this novel is “Introducing Calamity, Cruiser’s Canine Partner in Crime,” it would appear that the Basset Hound with a mind of her own will be assisting and exasperating Beanie in books to come. While this may be a somewhat dubious treat for Beanie it will be a definite pleasure for readers who will revel in the antics of these intelligent and lovable friends.
Low-Slung Love: The Long and Short of Life with a Basset Hound
By Sue Owens Wright
I was on my honeymoon, strolling arm-in-arm with my newly wedded husband, when I fell for a handsome Frenchman I happened to see on the avenue. He was long on charm, a wag, a heartbreaker. He was a Basset Hound. That first encounter in 1973 was the start of my enduring love affair with this low-slung breed of dog. I have since been owned by a long succession of drool slingers.
In the Beanie and Cruiser mysteries, Elsie MacBean shares her mountain cabin with rescued Basset Hounds, Cruiser and Calamity, the new canine partner in crime I introduce in Braced For Murder. Through their Tahoe adventures, I reveal what I’ve learned about Bassets after living with the breed for over half my life. Calamity’s character in this newest book in the series is based on my most challenging rescued Basset, Daisy, or Crazy Daisy as she better came to be known. Like Daisy, that dog could make a dog whisperer scream. When Beanie rescues the young hound from a local shelter, she soon discovers that Calamity is aptly named.
In Stanley Coren’s book, The Intelligence of Dogs, he ranks the Basset Hound number 71 out of 79 for obedience and working intelligence. That’s because Basset Hounds are focused on scenting prey (though they don’t ever catch it). Hey, that is their work, and they’re doggone good at it. You can’t blame the Basset if he’s a little distracted. He’s doing exactly what he was bred to do, so it’s a bit unfair to expect him to behave like a border collie or a poodle, dogs #1 and #2 on Coren’s list. Perhaps there needs to be a special intelligence ranking just for hounds. They are much more intelligent than they get credit for. They’re certainly a lot smarter than their owners are or they wouldn’t manage to train us so well.
Most people would never suspect that there’s a cool, calculating brain contained in that pointy little noggin. You may think that when your hound is loafing on the sofa—the one generously coated with fur because he sheds like a son of a Basset—that he’s pouting because you haven’t given him his third walk of the day. More likely he’s plotting how best to snatch the other half of your ham sandwich before you can eat it. Or perhaps he’s scheming how to nab the Sunday roast from the kitchen countertop.
Puzzle: “How can I stretch my sausage body high enough to reach the roast?”
Solution: “I can’t, so I’ll shove a chair over to the counter and climb up.”
Don’t laugh. It’s been done. Bassets are expert counter surfers. They are also artful at stealing your favorite chair, just as soon as you vacate it to let the dog out the back door where he was whining only a moment ago. Who ever said bassets are slow? That’s why we keep a sign in our house informing guests, “If you want the best seat in the house, move the dog.”
Bassets often end up being surrendered to shelters because the dogs are deemed untrainable. That’s because its owner hadn’t reckoned on that hound stubborn streak. Bassets can be difficult to train because of their dedication to the task they think is important. There’s no use fighting it. No wonder that their devotees, who understand the breed and accept its quirks with good humor, call themselves slaves.
Nose deafness is something you’ll have to learn to tolerate if you’re going to live with a Basset. Forget about whistles and clickers. A Basset Hound will respond to no summons before its time. That’s because there are far more interesting things to do, like sniff every single blade of grass. Why do you think the basset has a long, white-tipped tail that seems to be in perpetual motion? It’s so you can spot your low-slung hound waving his “flag” when out among tall weeds in the field, assuming you don’t hear him howl, or “give tongue,” as Basset fanciers refer to the dog’s melodious vocalizations. We didn’t need to install a Bay Alarm in our house to keep burglars away. We have the real thing!
Bassets may not respond immediately to every command, but that’s not saying they can’t learn tricks. I’ve had Bassets that could sit, shake, roll over, and give me a high five…er…four. One of my dogs, Patience, could do more tricks than any of the others. But it took a lot of patience to teach tricks to Patience or any of my Bassets because they always have their own ideas about the way things ought to be.
All of them excel at one trick. The Basset is a master at the art of begging, which is why so many become belly draggers and there are contests for Lowest Ground Clearance at Basset Waddles. There is nothing that will cause you to crumble quicker than that cookie you’re holding just out of snarfing range than a basset hound’s Sad Sack face.
Besides his unique appearance, easy-going nature, and endearing personality, it’s the Basset Hound’s dogged determination that sets him apart. That trait is also shared by writers, especially one like me who adores Bassets, lives with bassets, and loves to write about them. My dogs have provided me with limitless affection and endless inspiration for my books and essays. The hope is always that in addition to enjoying a good mystery, my readers will gain an appreciation and understanding of Basset Hounds as the wonderful, devoted companions they truly are.
To enter to win a copy of Braced For Murder, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, with the subject line “Braced”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 25, 2013. U.S. residents only.
Want to know how to see your ad like this at the end of an article? Email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] for more info. 10% of all ad sales goes to animal rescue.