by Cynthia Chow
& Shelley Freydont
This week we have a review of Independence Slay by Shelley Freydont, a mystery involving the 4th of July. We also have a fun guest post from Shelley about Pets and Cozy Mysteries. At the end of this post are details on how to win a copy of the book, and a link to purchase it.
Independence Slay By Shelley Freydont
Review by Cynthia Chow
As event coordinator for the town of Celebration Bay, New York, former Manhattanite Liv Montgomery encourages tourism to support local businesses. The last shortcake had barely been consumed before Strawberry Fest decorations came down and preparation began for the Fourth of July extravaganza which includes a parade and a Revolutionary War reenactment. The Battle of the Bay has been exaggerated and fictionalized, but remains definitely ghoulish.
Every year the battle takes place on the estate of Henry Gallantine, a former Hollywood child star. His namesake was once declared a traitor but later found innocent, but was he? Reports of the ancestral ghost appearing and the existence of a document that could prove his innocence or guilt, make for spooky, but profitable, attractions. The current Henry is the authorized “ghost” who uses a lantern to signal troops to start the battle during the fireworks display. This time there’s also an unapproved S.O.S., which leads Liv and her Gossip Central assistant Ted to discover a very real body. The gentle but simple teen Leo Morgan was found near the body and is declared to be the most likely suspect by half the townspeople. When his home is vandalized and he’s forced to take shelter with the local pastor, Leo’s friends plead for Liv to investigate.
Liv has stellar observational and organizational skills that prove to be uniquely helpful. She’s aware of her limitations though, and seeks assistance from of the head of Bayside Security, the handsome A.K. Pierce. Chaz Bristow, fishing guide and publisher of the local newspaper, the Clarion, could help too. However, after his months-long disappearance (gone fishing?), it will take a lot of prodding and poking to motivate the lazy, snarky, and undeniably attractive fisherman. While his teasing may have a pulling-on-pigtails aspect to it, Chaz has a genuine protectiveness for the community center teens he guides (just don’t call it mentoring).
Celebration Bay is a neighborly town where it takes generations to become an insider, everyone knows everyone’s business, and every parade float entry goes home with a winning ribbon. It’s also a place where explosive secrets lay dormant for centuries while resentments over slights are never forgotten. Luckily, Liv and her delightful Westie companion Whiskey (named for the Irish liquor of his heritage) prove to be intelligent, witty, and genuinely likable enough to persevere through the eccentricities of this delightful holiday-themed town.
Pets and the Cozy Mystery
By Shelley Freydont
Our pets are such a big part of our lives, so it stands to reason they would be a big part of the lives of our amateur sleuths. Detectives, whether amateur or not, have always had their sidekicks. Holmes had his Watson and my current sleuth, Liv has her Whiskey. Wait! It’s not what you think. Whiskey is a rescued Westie terrier.
Entire sub genres of mysteries are devoted to pets as sidekicks. I’ve written three mystery series and all my sleuths have had pets. So far I’ve stuck to cats and dogs, since I’ve always lived with cats and dogs myself.
As sidekicks, pets might actually help solve the crime, by pulling that dropped handkerchief from behind the couch where the body was found. Or better still the swatch of fabric as he bit off from the clothing of the bad guy who was fleeing the scene. Sometimes they merely lead the sleuth to the clue by a loud meow, or an insistent whine. Very intuitive, our pets.
They use signals to try to warn the sleuth or lead them to a clue. Some have been known to communicate with their sleuth through telepathy. Entire mysteries been written from the dog’s point of view. Which means the dog tells the story.
They’re great for comic relief, or quirky moments, they’re lovable, sometimes naughty. And always entertaining, because both dogs and cats are often more apt to create mischief than to solve murders.
They sometimes act as a sounding board while the sleuth works out a sequence of events, or the psychology of the possible killer, or how she feelings about her new boyfriend. They let her talk, aren’t too quick to pass judgment. Well, sometimes.
As I’ve developed as a mystery writer, I’ve watched my pet sidekicks develop, too. Their personalities grow and demand more page space. More shining moments.
The first mystery I ever wrote included an Irish Setter named Bruno. He was pretty much a walk-on character. Since my sleuth was a rehearsal director in a dance company, she was on tour for most of the murders. Bruno was relegated to the kind of companion that barks a welcome at the door, follows the sleuth into the kitchen and flops on the floor to wait for dinner.
My next series involved a Sudoku-playing curator of a puzzle museum. In this series, the feline sidekick was named Aloysius. He was a Maine coon cat, had all the attributes of that lovely breed, had the annoying habit of lying across his sleuth’s desk when she was trying to work and actually once saved her life.
In my latest series, the sidekick is the irascible but lovable Whiskey. Westies make great sidekicks, they’re small, but think they’re big, they’re mischievous, but loving, territorial and adventurous. In other words a handful.
Whiskey doesn’t talk. Though he did give an interview once and had some interesting things to say. He doesn’t really uncover clues or lead the slightly dimwitted humans to the murderer.
But what makes him special is his compassion. As one of my young teenage characters says in Independence Slay, “Whiskey’s good for when you’re feeling scared.”
For beyond the cute and the clever, dogs and cats are our best friends in a pinch. And that’s what I wanted to be Whiskey’s strong suit. When someone is wrongly accused of murder and tries to run, Whiskey runs after him. Not to apprehend him and be the hero, but to show his support, to protect him because he senses a good person.
When a local teenager becomes frantic when her father is accused of murder, Whiskey is there. “Whiskey put both paws on the seat cushion. Liv gave him a boost up. He settled himself between the two of them, his muzzle on Roseanne’s thigh. She took a shuddering breath and he snuggled closer.”
Whiskey’s no saint and he’s not above wreaking a little havoc especially when food is involved. Or a cat. Just ask the bookstore cat, Tinkerbelle, better known by her intimates as Tink the Stink.
But there’s no better companion to have your back in a crisis or to be a friend. I think Whiskey would agree.
To enter to win a copy of Independence Slay, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Slay,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 5, 2014. U.S. residents only.
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