by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a review of Murder at the Falls by Arlene Kay, along with an interesting interview with Arlene. Details at the end of the post on how to enter to win a copy of Murder at the Falls and a previous book in the series, Death by Dog Show, and a link to purchase new book from Amazon and an indie bookstore.
Murder at the Falls: A Creature Comforts Mystery By Arlene Kay
Review by Cynthia Chow
Former army veteran Persephone “Perri” Morgan is more than content with her life in Great Marsh, Virginia. Her business crafting leather products for dogs and horses is booming, and her personal life is similarly at an all-time-high due to her relationship with hot journalist Wing Pruett. In the spirit of sharing some of her happiness with others, Perri and her two Belgian Malinoises are volunteering in a Therapy Dog program. While Perri’s ideal assignment would be to comfort children in hospitals or schools, their newbie status instead has them sent to an assisted living facility. Perri’s unfamiliarity with seniors is soon overshadowed by the boisterous residents, although Magdalen Melmoth has an intriguing non-dog request of her own. Rather than canine counsel, Magdalen wants Perri’s help in validating an unpublished manuscript passed down from one of her relatives; namely Oscar Wilde.
When one of the healthier residents dies, Magdalen is certain that it was related to her family’s manuscript. Always on the lookout for another story, Pruett is willing to accept the possibility that the death has a nefarious connection. When a nurse succumbs to candy meant for Magdalen, Perri admits that she too has worries for the safety of her dog therapy client. More than eager to get a jump on the investigation and solve the mystery before the police is Perri’s bestie Babette Croy, a four-time married (and merry) widow always on the lookout for her next target. Glammed up and accepting no prisoners, Babette drags Perri into escapades that will either reveal the crimes ensuing in the facility or lead them to a probably embarrassing doom.
Perri’s is an admirable veteran whose dogs have medals of valor themselves, being war dogs who protected soldiers in the midst of battle. They more than earned their Canine Good Citizens certifications and clearances to be a part of the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, and this series triumphantly highlights the worthiness of their deeds. From helping children in the Read to a Dog programs to providing companionship in a hospital, these beloved canines outshine the flawed humans who commit so many greedy crimes. Perri and the dogs of Great Marsh are the stars of this series, and their vulnerability and strength make them true heroes. This third in the series will delight animal lovers, Oscar Wilde fans, and anyone looking for a light-hearted read to escape into for the weekend.
Interview with author Arlene Kay:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Arlene: I started writing novels in 2006. Before that I’d done a good deal of business writing but wow, what a revelation when I switched to fiction. So much to learn, so many mistakes to make and correct.
KRL: When did your first novel come out what was it called, and would you tell us a little about it?
Arlene: My first novel, Intrusion was released Dec. 2011 by Mainly Murder Press. I was intrigued by an article in the Boston Globe Science Section about implantable medical devices and how they could potentially be misused. That led me to the narrative about a young Boston widow, grief-stricken over the loss of her husband, who then decides to discover the truth.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense and if not, what else have you written?
Arlene: I have always written mysteries, both traditional, cozies, and romantic suspense. My only caveat is that they must contain a clever mystery that will captivate the reader. I still read two to three mysteries per week and when an author doesn’t provide me with a plot and clues that allow me to solve the puzzle, I feel really cheated.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
Arlene: The concept for my current novels for Kensington, (The Creature Comfort Series), was spawned by real life experience, trudging about the country with our show dog, Lord Byron. After far too many nights spent in cut-rate motels, I felt rather murderous myself. Also, as a lifelong pet person, I learned anew how much joy the animal world brings to us. My protagonist Persephone Morgan, is a leather-smith, modeled after Lord Byron’s breeder. Her BFF is a composite of the many women pals I’ve been fortunate enough to know. Unfortunately, her love interest, Wing Pruett, is purely fictional-gorgeous, brainy and rich just like every man I dated during my single years. (LOL)
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take
away from your work?
Arlene: My motivation in writing is two-fold: to delight the audience and to reinforce the notion that justice and the law may not always be the same thing. Satisfying mysteries usually leave one with a sense that justice prevails even under adverse conditions.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Arlene: I try to write each day from 10 a.m. (after watching Perry Mason reruns) to 4 p.m.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Arlene: My ideal time is mid-morning to early afternoon.
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?
Arlene: Most often I devise a very general outline where I know the setting, crime, and perhaps the motive. The identity of the culprit often surprises even me and might not materialize until half-way through the book.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Arlene: Like most traditionally published writers, I experienced angst, despair and frustration before finally securing a contract. When I started out, most agents required you to send the completed manuscript via the USPS, and the in person encounters at conferences were a mixed bag. I am tenacious, however, and vowed to continue to write and improve until that magic moment when a contract arrived.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Arlene: My fondest memory was the day that Mainly Murder Press actually sent me a contract. My husband casually mentioned that I should check my email for their response. I was so accustomed to rejections that I almost fainted when I saw that it was positive!
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Arlene: I loathe doing signings at a bookstore. So often I feel like the last muffin on the plate and am too shy to dragoon passersby over to my table. However, I love making presentations and teaching. One evening after a presentation a middle-aged man complimented me by saying that it was the best author-talk he had ever attended. Then he said, “Of course I have never read fiction in my life and don’t ever intend to.”
KRL: What are your future writing goals?
Arlene: My fondest hope is that one of my series could be adapted for cable -Hallmark, Lifetime, etc. I love my characters and believe that viewers would too.
KRL: Who are your writing heroes?
Arlene: Among the writing heroes I cherish are- Agatha Christie; Elizabeth Peters; Dorothy Sayers; Dashiell Hammet; James Patterson; Nelson DeMille, and more recently the talented Carole Bugge. For other genres, it is hard to beat Jane Austen, William F. Buckley and Joseph Heller.
KRL: What kind of research do you do and which medium is the most reliable?
Arlene: I do a good deal of my research on-line, although for The Creature Comfort Series, I drew from actual experience living in Virginia and elsewhere. For instance, in Murder at the Falls, I used examples of Therapy Dog training with my incomparable and much loved Tervuren Mason. The plot line about Oscar Wilde stemmed from my admiration for that incredibly talented and maligned genius whose wit still enthralls audiences.
KRL: What genre do you like read?
Arlene: I am a voracious reader and have been since childhood. At one point I consumed management related books like candy (maybe TUMS), but now although I enjoy the occasional non-fiction tome, I usually stick to traditional mystery. Most serial killer or grisly novels are too raw for me.
KRL: Which are your favorite TV or movies?
Arlene: Streaming British shows has become an obsession, particularly finds like Vera, Shetland, Miss Fisher etc. Love their elegance and use of language. I have to admit to a fascination for action movies especially with Jet Li, Russell Wong and Jacky Chan. If only I could replicate those kicks and jumps. (sigh).
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Arlene: Advice: keep reading and working tirelessly to improve your writing. Don’t give up and go for the easy path. Writing critique groups were invaluable for me. Try not to read reviews because you will ALWAYS recall every negative one and forget the many positives
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Arlene: I’ve exhausted my supply of bromides, anecdotes and asides.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Arlene: Surprise confession: I feel quite shy and somewhat alienated at conferences and in groups of strangers. I force myself to confront those feelings.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
To enter to win a copy of Murder at the Falls and a previous book in the series, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “falls,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 29, 2020. U.S. residents only and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. BE AWARE THAT IT WILL TAKE LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Be sure to check out our new mystery podcast too with mystery short stories, and first chapters read by local actors. A new episode went up this week.
You can use this link to purchase this book from indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy, and KRL gets a portion of the sale:
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Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. 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.