by Cynthia Chow
When we discovered Sheila Webster Boneham’s Animals in Focus mystery series it seemed like a perfect fit for us–pets and mystery! So this week we are reviewing her latest book, The Money Bird, and we have a great guest post from Sheila about the animals in her books and their real life counterparts. At the end of this post is info on winning of copy of The Money Bird.
The Money Bird by Sheila Webster Boneham
by Cynthia Chow
Professional photographer and devoted dog lover Janet MacPhail’s day started out promising, as she was spending the morning photographing the Northern Indiana Hunting Retriever Club’s practice session that included her boyfriend Tom Saunders and his beloved retriever Drake. However, Drake’s unsettling retrieval of a bloody bag filled with feathers and a piece of money, cuts the training session short even though Janet seems to be the only one alarmed by the situation.
Far more interesting to the Twisted Lake, Indiana community is the expanding Treasures on Earth Spiritual Renewal Center led by Regis Moneypenney, and whose members seem to be including an ever-expanding number of residents. As perplexing as the ultimate goal of the extremely affluent congregation is, their actual philosophy seems to include every belief system and that basically treasures are on earth.
Janet meets one of the Treasures’ most influential members rather unfortunately during her assignment shadowing a female veterinarian for a women’s magazine article. While Mrs. Willard’s overpriced and oversized mixed-breed puppy Hummer causes his own amount of discord, it’s actually her Satanic-like child Tiffany who literally leaves a mark on Janet, causing her to be the butt of many jokes. It also leads to a trip to the emergency room where she meets the high school hunk from her past, Neil Young (not that Neil Young), who seems uncomfortably intent on renewing old acquaintances with Janet. And as much as Janet remains dedicated to Tom and his beloved Drake, the attractive possibilities and memories from the past do have their influence on her present. However, Neil’s distaste for most animals and only a tolerance for Janet’s constant Australian shepherd companion Jay, ensures that their relationship may never get past the starting gate.
Although the police had seemed complacent about Janet and Drake’s discovery at Twisted Lake, a missed phone call and the retrieval of the body of Anderson Billings, changes all that and leads to an investigation that seems to involve the mysterious bird fostering program being headed by Regis Moneypenney and his followers. With the aid of policewoman Jo Stephens and Cornell ornithologist George Crane, Janet, Tom, and their accompanying canines are determined to stop the cruel practice of animal smuggling and investigate whether it has infiltrated their community.
Janet is an absolutely delightful character whose humor is quirky and often plays on the dialogue of others, as she’s never one to let a dangling modifier…dangle. Yet just as wrenching is her relationship with her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s and who breaks Janet’s heart at every visit as she is either completely unknown to her mother or blamed for having placed her in Shadetree Retirement Home. The author does balance the humor with very sympathetic and compassionate characters, but it is always the canines who humanize and bring out the best in their people. This is a very enjoyable mystery for animal lovers and anyone who appreciates light-hearted, humorous mysteries.
Use this link to purchase The Money Bird & a portion goes to help keep KRL going:
The Animals Behind Animals in Focus
By Sheila Webster Boneham
Like all novelists, I’m often asked whether the characters in my books are “real.” My answer is no—if you’re referring to the people. The animals are a different story. Some of them—like Jay, the Australian Shepherd leading dog of the Animals in Focus series, and Leo, the top cat, and Drake the Lab—are drawn from real life.
Jay, companion to my accidental amateur sleuth Janet MacPhail, is inspired by my own Australian Shepherd named Jay. My Jay was born into my hands in October 1998, and left us for the Rainbow Bridge last year just shy of his fourteenth birthday. He came from an accomplished family—his parents and two of his four littermates were champions with titles in obedience and agility. Jay and his mother were also certified therapy dogs who worked for many years with children. When Jay was four years old, the people who took him home at nine weeks decided they didn’t want him. We took him back, grossly overweight, under socialized, and untrained. A year later, Jay was the high scoring obedience dog in my dog club, a feat he repeated the following year. He was a lovely guy, smart as can be (great sleuth material!), and gentle enough to be trusted with tiny baby rescued kittens. Fictional Jay has a few behaviors borrowed from some of my other Aussies, but his basic personality is our sweet Jay, and everything he does in the books really happened with one of my own dogs or an Aussie I know.
Leo, orange tabby extraordinaire, is Janet’s feline companion. I have had two handsome orange tabbies, Malcolm and Leo, in my own life, as well as a host of other cats—George, Teddy, Fred, Simon, Snoopy, Annie, Jean-Luc, Kitty, Mary, a feral we called Gypsy and her son Bob (because he was Born Out Back), and the many cats I played with as a shelter volunteer. Janet’s Leo is mostly Malcolm and Leo, I guess, with a huge helping of George, who was a big, handsome tuxedo cat we had when I was a kid. Like Malcolm, George, and Leo, Janet’s Leo loves dogs, especially his Jay and the newcomer, Drake.
Labrador Retriever Drake is the dark and handsome companion of anthropologist Tom Saunders, and Janet considers them both to be credits to their breeds, especially since Jay and Leo like them. Drake is based heavily on my first Lab, Raja, a big rowdy chocolate field-bred Lab. Drake shows traces, too, of my two yellow girls, Annie and Lily.
Two of the other retrievers in the book are also based on real dogs. When I was working on The Money Bird, I pitched an idea to two organizations whose causes I strongly support: let’s team up to raffle off guest parts for two dogs—one for each group’s winner—in my second Animals in Focus Mystery. The first group to hold its raffle was LABMED, an Internet-based non-profit organization created to distribute financial aid to injured or ill rescued Labrador Retrievers around the country, giving them a second chance at adoption and love from a permanent family. The winner of the LABMED raffle was Lennen, a ten-year-old rescued boy who spent his whole life in a backyard until he was turned in to rescue by his owners. He landed in heaven with Diana Holman, her six other Labs, and a comfy indoor couch to sleep on, and also landed an important part in The Money Bird. Sadly, Lennen went to the Rainbow Bridge a few months ago, but he lives on in his fictional role—a heroic one, at that—and I’m sure he is smiling at us from the Bridge.
The second raffle was sponsored by Canine Health Events, a group that raises money for canine health research. The winner of the CHE raffle was Golden Retriever Pilot, whom owner and competition partner Stephanie Schmitter describes as “a very athletic and versatile Golden Retriever.” Pilot is a Master Agility Champion several times over and has additional titles in agility, obedience and field, with a lifetime ranking of #66 for Golden Retrievers in AKC agility. Stephanie says, “He loves field work and will retrieve on land or in water until you make him stop,” all of which made him perfect for The Money Bird.
Because this series focuses on a different animal activity in each book, lots of other dogs, cats, and other creatures are vital characters. I base them all on animals I have known or heard about in my years of involvement in showing dogs and horses, rescue and shelter work, breeding, teaching obedience, judging, throwing balls, rubbing bellies, and otherwise learning to put animals in focus.
To enter to win a copy of The Money Bird, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Bird,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 5, 2013. U.S. residents only.
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