by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a review of Linda O. Johnston’s new pet mystery Bite the Biscuit, and we also have a fun pets and mysteries guest post by Linda. Details at the end of this post on how to win a copy of this book, along with a link to purchase it where a portion goes to help support KRL and indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy.
Bite the Biscuit: A Barkery and Biscuit Mystery By Linda O. Johnston
Review by Cynthia Chow
Veterinarian technician Carrie Kennersly has just opened Barkery & Biscuits, an establishment featuring baked and cooked dog treats. She’s combining the “barkery” with Icing on the Cake, a bakery for humans. While requiring Carrie to apply arduous kitchen and hygiene procedures to meet legal human health regulations, her dog treats are as suitable for people as they are for their pets. Just not as sweet.
The grand opening of the new Icing and Barkery & Biscuits is crashed by the unpleasant Myra Ethman, part-owner of rival Knob Hill Pet Emporium. Carrie responds to Myra’s threats with a few of her own, which proves unfortunate when Myra is found murdered the next day—with a B&B treat beside her. To save the barkery and protect her friends and investors, Carrie investigates the myriad suspects who had reason for putting Myra out of everyone’s misery.
Author of the Pet Rescue Mystery series and the Kendra Ballantyne Pet Sitter mysteries, Johnston continues her streak of creating entertaining novels celebrating animals and the humans responsible for them. She seamlessly blends her mystery with her love of canines, and, as herself a veterinary technician who bakes for dogs, the information concerning animals’ health flows naturally throughout the novel. The meticulous precautions involving hygiene and separation of human and canine kitchen ventilation are details that help make the combination entirely realistic.
The author takes her time unraveling Carrie’s past and character, and highlights the close relationship she has with her brother Neal. It looks as though Carrie’s romantic opportunities will be finally opening up in the future. The author’s affection for her animals is undeniable, but this feeling never distracts from a plot revealing our all-too-human weaknesses.
If You Give a Pet A Mystery…
Yes, Pets in Mysteries
By Linda O. Johnston
If you give a pet a mystery in a novel, especially a cozy mystery, she’ll solve it. Or help the protagonist solve it. Or be there for that sleuth–amateur or pro–who has to solve it.
It’s the same thing with pets and people in reality. Pets are important in pet lovers’ real lives, helping us through happy days and sad, training us as we train them, giving and accepting love.
Of course in books the idea is to appeal not only to the characters within the stories, but also the readers. If you go to the mystery section of a bookstore, look at those covers. A whole lot of them show dogs and cats, even if the story focuses on other themes such as cooking or crafts. Why is that? Because people love their pets! And, not surprisingly, pets love their people.
There have been a lot of articles lately, online and otherwise, about how oxytocin in the bodies of humans and their dogs or cats scientifically explains some of their bonding. When pet owners and their dogs or cats share a long mutual gaze, studies have shown that both had higher levels of oxytocin in their urine than owners and pets who share a shorter gaze.
What does this mean? Well, scientists are saying it shows that cats and dogs are capable of love. Dog lovers and cat lovers are clearly not surprised about this. And reading about them? Well, why not!
My particular love is dogs. Just as in real life, fictional dogs tend to be there for their owners, to help, to play, to act as sounding boards and emotional support. They can help with whatever the plot is in a story, too. That’s why I write about dogs in my mysteries. But cat lovers say similar things about cats in their stories, even though those kitties tend to do things their own ways.
I was recently on a panel at the Malice Domestic conference for cozy mystery readers and writers called The “Paws” that Refresh: Four Legged Detectives and Their Sidekicks. It was moderated by Laura Morrigan (Call of the Wilde Mysteries), and other panelists were John Clement (Dixie Hemingway Mysteries), Liz Mugavero (Pawsitively Organic Pet Food Mysteries) and Janet Cantrell (Fat Cat Mysteries). Our stories were all cozy mysteries involving pets and it was fun describing the differences, particularly between those focusing on dogs and those focusing on cats. But the common theme was how much the pets in our stories affected our protagonists’ lives and mystery solving abilities.
At the moment, I am writing two cozy mystery series where dogs are important. My newest one, the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries, is about protagonist Carrie Kennersly, a veterinary technician and, yes, dog lover, who also gets to realize her dream of becoming an entrepreneur. A good friend has to sell her bakery, Icing on the Cake, and move away from Knobcone Heights, California, because her mother is ill. Carrie buys it from her and converts half of Icing into Barkery and Biscuits, a store that sells handmade dog treats made from healthy recipes Carrie developed for patients as a vet tech. Of course, since it’s a mystery series, murders occur and Carrie receives emotional support from her dog, Biscuit.
I’m also writing the Superstition Mysteries. Yes, superstitions are a major theme in the stories–but the protagonist there, Rory Chasen, winds up managing a pet boutique in Destiny, California, which is all about superstitions, after her lucky black and white dog, Pluckie, helps to save the life of the boutique’s owner.
My prior two mystery series were the Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter Mysteries and its spinoff, the Pet Rescue Mysteries. So yes, I’ve been writing dog-themed cozies for a while. That affects other parts of my life as well, such as participating on that Malice Domestic panel. On Facebook, not only am I a host of the Nose For Trouble group, along with others who blog on Killer Characters and also write pet-themed cozies, but I also get links frequently about dog rescues as well as Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, my adored breed of choice for ages.
I am currently owned by two adorable Cavaliers, Lexie–whose counterpart was featured in the Kendra mysteries, and Mystie. They’re both girls, so that’s why I used the feminine pronoun in the first paragraph to refer to dogs.
Do I read cozies or other books that don’t contain animals? Sure, but guess which kinds of stories tend to be my favorites? I suspect I’ve got some oxytocin in me.
To enter to win a copy of Bite the Biscuit, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Biscuit,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 30, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
Click on this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL and Mysterious Galaxy: