by Cynthia Chow
& Annie Knox
This week we have a review of Collared For Murder, the latest Pet Boutique Mystery by Annie Knox, along with a fun guest post from Annie. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Collared For Murder, and a link to purchase a copy where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Collared For Murder: A Pet Boutique Mystery By Annie Knox
Review by Cynthia Chow
The Midwestern Cat Fanciers’ Organization is holding its silver anniversary week-long retreat and cat show in Merryville, Minnesota, and it seems like the perfect opportunity for Izzy McHale to promote her fledgling pet boutique business. What is far from ideal is that the head of M-CFO, Phillip Denford, is a relentless letch who ogles women while his highly medicated wife looks on. Even worse, Philip unrepentantly announces his intention to undercut Izzy’s pet couture business by mass-producing her designs at much cheaper prices.
When he’s found with a pair of pet shears in his back, for once it isn’t Izzy who becomes the prime suspect in his unlamented death. Instead, it’s Izzy’s business rival/frenemy Pris Olson who’s arrested upon the discovery of a valuable jeweled cat dangle stowed away in her bag. Izzy doubts that the self-centered diva would ever commit a murder so messily, but knowing that she herself had motive to euthanize the callous businessman, Izzy is hesitant to stick her nose into police business.
Jack Collins, Izzy’s new boyfriend, is leading that police business and doesn’t want Izzy involved. Izzy, for her part, doesn’t want Jack to renew his friendship with his ex-girlfriend Marigold, Philip’s assistant, who was actually running most of the show.
Dizzy Izzy no longer merits the nickname she earned as one of the forceful McHale sisters, and with the help of her family she’ll put her intelligence and curiosity about the cat show to good use as she discovers that rampant jealousies, family rivalries, and cattiness abound in the competitive cat-show world.
While the author has fun delving into the intriguing details of a competitive cat competition, she excels when focusing on making Izzy a fully developed character. Having been betrayed by the man she thought was the love of her life, Izzy is understandably hesitant to utter the “l” word again, even to someone who is making his own feelings very clear. Watching Izzy mature and grow is a pure delight, and in fact all the characters feel entirely real; even the villains are more than two-dimensional stereotypes.
Of course, all pet lovers will find much to enjoy in this feline-focused mystery, as a guinea pig goes rogue though the competition while Izzy’s own Pug-Bulldog Packer ventures into hostile territory. Very real emotions highlight this well-constructed mystery, and readers will find engaging characters, sparkling dialogue, and an extremely appealing heroine.
Climb That Mountain!
By Annie Knox
My husband Peter and I recently returned from a wonderful vacation in Santa Fe, New Mexico. When we left home, I eagerly awaited our astronomy outing, shopping the stores that line Santa Fe’s famed plaza and wallowing in delicious spa treatments at Ten Thousand Waves Spa. The highlight of the trip, however, turned out to be an unplanned excursion to Hyde State Park.
We awoke that morning to cool temperatures and partly cloudy skies. While we’d planned to hit a couple of museums, the outdoors beckoned, so with the help of the magical internet, we found a state park and mapped our path. Within twenty minutes, we were pulling in to the welcome center and studying the maps for the trails which snaked through the evergreen-dotted mountainside.
After a bit of debate, we settled on a trail that would lead us about three-quarters of a mile from the welcome center to a promised waterfall (who could resist a waterfall?). It only took a few minutes to locate the head of the trail and start up steep steps shored up by old railroad ties.
Perhaps I should set the scene a little better. Peter and I are not outdoorsy people. You’re more apt to find us sharing a pint of ice cream in front of a scary movie than taking a brisk evening walk…much less huffing and puffing at a gym. What’s more, we’ve spent the past decade living in north Texas, where the slightest elevation qualifies as a hill!
My overall lack of physical fitness, coupled with the thin mountain air, made those first few steps feel like death. We hadn’t gone more than twenty yards before I bent over, gasping “I can’t do this” between violent wheezes. “Yes, you can,” Peter told me. “Let’s just go a little further and see how you do.”
I admit I glared at him, but I kept going, with Peter chuffing along at my back. The steps gave way to open trail, but this, too, climbed ever steeper. We took frequent breaks. Occasionally, our ascent slowed to an absolute crawl as we took turns inching up particularly steep stretches of loose gravel and slippery pine needles.
The map at the welcome center had indicated that there would be a marker about half a mile in that indicated the split off for the path to the waterfall. We kept climbing, but we never saw a marker. Another couple who’d been crawling along just ahead of us turned back, certain that we’d all been laboring on the wrong trail. Peter and I huddled, but decided to keep pushing forward.
Altogether, we climbed about six tenths of a mile. We never found the turn off for the waterfall much less the waterfall itself. And it turned out that picking our way down the treacherous trail was every bit as difficult (though not as cardio-intensive) as climbing our way up. But when we got back to the car, I was elated! My ankle was achy, my knee was wonky, I was sweaty despite the cool temps, and–by golly–I never did see that waterfall, but I couldn’t have been more proud of myself.
Thanks to my husband’s prodding, I’d gotten past my first “can’t,” and from that point on I kept going by sheer force of will. I went beyond anything I thought I could do. We never reached our destination, but the arduous journey was its own reward.
The writing life is a lot like that mountain trek, at least for me. When I first sit down in front of a blank page, my initial panicked response is “I can’t.” But then I start–and the journey is not easy. Sometimes there’s a waterfall–a manuscript that finds its way into print–and sometimes there’s not. But the journey itself is its own reward, not in spite of its difficulty but because of it.
To enter to win a copy of Collared For Murder, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Collared,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 20, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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