by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a review of another fun pet related mystery, this one by Diane Kelly. We also have an interesting interview with Diane. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Enforcing the Paw. We also have a link to order it from Amazon, and from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Enforcing the Paw: A Paw Enforcement Novel by Diane Kelly
Review by Cynthia Chow
Fort Worth Police Officer Megan Luz never wanted to be a police dog handler, so she never expected that her partnership with K-9 shepherd-mix Brigit could be so rewarding. Megan’s options were limited after she tasered her previous partner, a human so rude and sexist that his being called a dog would have been an insult to canines. So Megan is fortunate to have Brigit along when responding to a domestic disturbance call from Adriana Valdez, who is accusing her ex-boyfriend of being a stalker. Statistics, not to mention some very incriminating evidence, would seem to make this an easy case, if not for Ryan Downey making the same accusations against Adriana. That he is just as believable as Adriana makes this a completely confusing and revolving case of he-said-she-said, with Megan continually shifting her opinion along with the evidence.
Chapters alternate between narrations by Megan, Brigit, and The Devoted One, who obsessively plots to either renew the relationship…or end it forever. The reader will be just as perplexed as Megan, who worries and feels guilty about possibly victimizing the victim. Like the author’s other series featuring IRS agent Tara Holloway, the more mundane duties and cases are interspersed throughout the novel, providing ceaseless entertainment and moments of absurdity. While it might not seem like a matter of life and death, Megan sets a high priority on capturing the Lolly Bandit who is shoplifting Tootsie Pops from stores all around town.
Glimpses into Megan’s home life are just as engaging, as she finds that her boyfriend, a fireman and member of the bomb squad, is slowly encroaching into her life and becoming a squatter in the apartment she shares with a roller derby queen. While Megan doesn’t question the strength of her relationship with Seth, she isn’t sure that her huge, uproarious family can ever blend with his small, dysfunctional one. In fact, a brief interlude where Megan gets to spend drinking some non-Confessional wine with her mother is a highlight of the novel, as it becomes a very relatable moment of finally seeing a parent as a person.
Pet lovers will of course love all six books of the Paw Enforcement series, and Brigit’s narrations are enjoyable because they feel so grounded in reality. Brigit may not always read her human accurately, but the loyalty the K-9 feels for her human is never in question; nor is Brigit’s outstanding policing skills. The novel remains upbeat and often hilarious while also shining a light on the dangerous threat posed by stalkers. The psychology of obsession, not to mention the difficulty in enforcing stalking laws, are thoroughly examined and woven into the narratives. The author’s talent for tackling difficult issues without being preachy never wavers and ensures for a completely satisfying and delightful read. By being neither too “cute” with its police dog lead, nor too dark with its serious topic, the author delivers a mystery that is a masterful blend of police detective and cozy fiction.
Interview with Diane Kelly:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Diane: I began writing in the fall of 2000, when I took a creative writing class. Some of the other students and I formed a critique group and met each week to read and evaluate each others work. The feedback was incredibly helpful in helping me hone my skills.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?
Diane: My first novel was Death, Taxes and a French Manicure, which came out November 1, 2011. It features a quirky criminal investigator for the IRS who pursues white-collar criminals. I worked for years as a tax advisor and ran into all kinds of financial con artists, so I drew on my experiences in creating the story. I’ve since released 11 books in that series and will wrap the series up with the final book this fall.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Diane: My stories always start with character. Initially, I set out to write stories of strong female characters with interesting careers. That naturally lent itself to putting my leads into law enforcement, which then led to mystery and suspense plots. It all happened very organically. But I always have a romance plot line in my mysteries and I’ve written a few short romance stories and one fantasy romance. I like to incorporate both my heroine’s work life and personal life in my books.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Please tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Diane: I’ve lived in Fort Worth for quite some time and enjoy the city, so I thought it would be fun to set my Paw Enforcement series there. Fort Worth still has remnants of the old west cowboy culture from the cattle trail days, but it also has great art museums. I came up with the idea for a K-9 team when I attended the Citizens Police Academy. When a handler brought his dog in for a demonstration, I was instantly hooked. My main character is Police Officer Megan Luz, who is partnered with a Shepherd mix named Brigit. The two butt heads on occasion because they are both intelligent and determined, but they’re loyal to the end.
KRL: Why did you decide to write a pet related series?
Diane: I’ve always been an animal lover. I grew up with cats and dogs and share my home with three dogs and a bunch of cats now. Each one is unique and they have so much personality! They’re constantly making me laugh or wonder what their thinking. I thought it would be fun to develop a non-human character and get to play at being a dog as I write.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Diane: While I write primarily to entertain, I touch on important issues in my books. I’ve covered social justice, immigration, stalking, and the consequences and causes of both white-collar and violent crime. I hope that the stories not only make people laugh, but also make them think or expose them to a new idea or way of looking at things.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Diane: I write nearly every day, though if I can’t find a chunk of at least two or three solid hours I’ll usually just spend that day catching up on household chores or errands. It takes me a while to get into my groove, and trying to write for a few minutes here and there just doesn’t work for me. My favorite thing is going on weekend writing retreats with my author friends. With all the distractions gone, I can focus and crank out lots of pages very efficiently.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Diane: I’m definitely a planner, and I always develop a detailed outline before I write my books. The outline ensures I keep the chronology straight and helps me visualize how the plots and subplots are woven throughout the story. Still, as I write, things will happen within the framework that pop up and surprise me. Stories sometimes take on a life of their own!
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Diane: Late morning to early afternoon is ideal for me. I have to get e-mails out of the way and the dogs walked so that my mind can focus on my stories and I can relax enough for my creative juices to flow. But I hit a mental wall by 4:00 in the afternoon and can’t write well after that.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Diane: Oh, yeah. But mostly that was because my work wasn’t ready. I just didn’t know it at the time. Once I’d refined my skills, it still took some effort because there is so much competition out there and finding an editor with the same taste takes time. But I attended writing conferences where I could pitch to editors and agents, and I also entered writing contests where editors and agents served as judges. I did all the right things to increase my odds of getting my work in front of the right people and finding my match. I’ve been with the same editor since the beginning and she’s a joy to work with. We have the same vision for my work and she’s very hands off, which I like.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Diane: When I was doing the contest circuit with the manuscript that later became my first published book, I had a judge that gave me a very low score. The judges have a couple of months to read and evaluate the manuscripts, and during that time, I became a finalist in a bigger, more prestigious contest, which I went on to win. After her initial comments, the judge had come back to my work to add a note that she’d learned I’d been a finalist in the bigger contest and that she’d reread my work as a result. She said she stood by her comments and low score. There was another small space and then she noted that she’d seen I’d since won that larger contest. She said she’d reread the work a third time to see if she’d missed something. She still stood by her critique and said that she’d be “that judge I’d joke about who just didn’t get it.” She was right!
The lesson I learned from that experience is that no one book is going to please each and every reader, and not every reader will find all characters or situations relatable. That’s perfectly okay. Trying to please everyone would be impossible, so it’s best to focus on your own style and voice. Readers who like your kind of work will find you.
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Diane: For the release of Death, Taxes, and Extra-Hold Hairspray, I wore a towering pink beehive wig to a book signing. A little boy dragged his mother over to stand in front of my table and just stared at me for a long time, his eyes wide. He seemed to think I was a Dr. Seuss character come to life!
KRL: Future writing goals?
Diane: To send more strong, sassy heroines into the word and match them with supportive, sexy men. I’d also like to explore more romance ideas that do not involve a mystery element.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Diane: Flannery O’Connor really captures the southern culture so well. Janet Evanovich always manages to entertain with her goofball Stephanie Plum stories, but I also like humor books. I recently read ones by comedians Demetri Martin and Aziz Ansari and they were perceptive and hilarious. Erma Bombeck and Dave Barry were also early inspirations for my work. I also loved the Carol Burnett show when I was young.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Diane: Before writing both my IRS series and my K-9 series, I interviewed people in the profession to get the inside scoop. I met with a half dozen or so IRS special agents who were incredibly helpful and gave me some great information about how they worked their investigations. Of course I proceeded to stretch the information to extremes in the books for the sake of humor and entertainment. I also read several books on criminal psychology to figure out what makes people commit crimes and how they do it.
KRL: What do you read?
Diane: Not enough books! Seems like I’m always working on my own stories and have scant time to enjoy reading for pleasure anymore, but when I do, it’s normally something funny. Lately, I’ve been listening to audiobooks by comedians, much of it autobiographical. It’s been interesting to learn what their lives were like and how their backgrounds catapulted them into comedy.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Diane: I love comedies. For TV, one of my current favorite shows is Nobodies, which features aspiring film writers who keep running into hilarious snags while trying to produce their movie. I also love Downward Dog and family sitcoms like The Middle, The Goldbergs, Blackish, and Fresh Off the Boat. I also really enjoy Insecure, which is funny at times but also touches on some important issues. As far as movies, I love all the classic Monty Python films and nearly everything in the comedic cop genre. Rom-coms are fun, too.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Diane: Persistence is key to success. It doesn’t happen overnight and it takes longer to get really good at writing than you will think at the outset. It’s not as easy as just getting words on a page. Keep learning. Take classes, join professional writers’ organizations, and attend conferences. To earn good returns, you must make a pretty big initial investment in yourself.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Diane: Thanks for this interview! I always learn something new about myself or my perspectives when I’m answering questions.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Diane: I was a very quiet child. Anybody who knows me now would be surprised to hear that! I was taking the world in and observing it, and hadn’t yet formed my own opinions, so I didn’t say a lot.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
To enter to win a copy of Enforcing the Paw, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “paw,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 22, 2017. 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.
Use this link to purchase the book & a portion goes to help support KRL & indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy:
You can also use this link to purchase the book on Amazon. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:
Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases using those links. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.