by Cynthia Chow
& Diana Kelly
This week we have a review of Paw of the Jungle, the latest A Laying Down the Paw Mystery by Diane Kelly. We also have a fun pet related guest post by Diane. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Paw of the Jungle. We also have a link to order it from Amazon, and from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Paw of the Jungle: A Laying Down the Paw Mystery by Diane Kelly
Review by Cynthia Chow
If there’s one thing that Fort Worth Police Officer Megan Luz knows, it’s that nothing is ever all black or all white. That’s never more apparent than during the Christmas holiday season, when desperation drives some to commit crimes for what they believe are for “good” reasons. This is also what one of the other narrators of this novel believes, and his tale is told from the viewpoint known only as “The Poacher.” Recently released from prison, the ex-con initially only wants to be reunited with his family and provide them with the Christmas they deserve. It doesn’t take long before his temper and prison record restrict employment options, while his pride leads him down the path to the crimes that give him his name.
Those acts are what place him in the path of the ambitious police officer Megan, whose partnership with police dog Brigit has boosted both Megan’s career and her personal life. While patrolling the zoo, Megan and Brigit happen to be on hand when two hyacinth macaws go missing, a tragedy that is at first blamed on a custodian’s carelessness. Unfortunately, that is but the first of a string of wildlife thefts from zoos, and Megan’s love of animals has her desperate to find them before they are lost forever. Megan’s observation skills, along with Brigit’s nose and athleticism, make them vital assistants for the investigating detective as they track down the profitable, cruel, but barely punished crimes of illegal poaching. Along the way Megan continues her normal patrols that involve jewelry thefts in a mall, where the solution is never as obvious as it at first appears to be.
Through clever writing and misdirection, one is never certain of the identity of the mysterious narrator even as he is shown descending further and further down a dark path. Through Megan’s research the extent and damage of poaching is revealed, with the stories being as heartbreaking as they are so compelling. Equally as compelling are scenes of Megan’s personal life, which depicts her strong and ever-growing relationship with her boyfriend, fireman Seth. A new paramedic threatens Megan’s security in their status, but Seth and his own K9 partner Blast prove to be worthy companions for our heroes.
What is so refreshing about this series is how it differs by presenting a police officer who hasn’t lost her idealism and continues to believe in humanity and redemption. She maintains this belief despite the fact that for police officers the holiday season herald in an increase of domestic fights, burglaries, drunk drivers, and fires. At least tackling a shoplifter gives Megan the opportunity to spot a nice Christmas gift for her sister and allows Brigit to get a lot of exercise. Brigit’s narrations continue to be clever and perfectly suitable coming from a dog, as she enjoys teasing Blast and sniffing up fantastic odors. Beginning with Christmas and ending with the Valentine holiday, this novel is a wonderfully entertaining police procedure full of humor, the exploration of animal trafficking, and a woman’s bond with her best friend.
By Diane Kelly
All it takes to get an “Aww!” out of me is a cute video or photo of unlikely animal friends. The Pit Bull and the raccoon. The kitty cat and the duck. The Labrador and the deer. Something about presumed enemies finding common ground and companionship warms my heart, lifts my soul, and gives me hope. But having been the caretaker of dozens of felines and canines over the year, I’m also intrigued by the relationships within and between these two domesticated species with whom we share our lives and homes.
While many pet owners are either “cat people” or “dog people,” I’m a hybrid, currently sharing my home with three of each species. While I do my best to ensure that I have a good relationship with each of my pets, I also want them to have positive relationships with their furry siblings. Easier said than done, sometimes. As my alpha male Shepherd, Junior, has aged, his younger Terrier-mix brother, once fully accepting of his omega-dog status, has now begun to challenge the pack leader for dominance, growling over food, despite the fact that I provide them with plenty of kibble so they don’t have to quibble. “Can’t you two just get along?” I’ve asked them on more than one occasion. The terrier has no problems with my female Dalmatian mix, however, and both of them often stick their heads in a bowl together and gladly share the contents.
This said, Junior is not without a favorite furry friend. Just before Thanksgiving two years ago, the boys from next door came over bearing a tiny orange and white ball of fluff. “Our mom told us to bring you this kitten,” they said. Apparently, the cute little critter had been foisted upon the boys by another neighbor who’d failed to seek their parents’ permission before bestowing the gift upon them. While I was happy to bring the kitten into our furry fold, I fretted at first over whether our dogs would know to be gentle with the itty bitty thing.
I introduced them carefully, the kitten – who we named Fritz – clutched tightly in my hands. I needn’t have worried. My Dalmatian and Terrier gave Fritz a quick sniff, decided he wasn’t worth their attention, and promptly resumed squirrel patrol in the backyard. Surprisingly, Junior, who rarely showed interest in playing with his pack mates or our other cats, was immediately enthralled. He gave Fritz a through examination with his nose, then greeted him with a full-tongue kiss from one ear to the other. Fritz swiped playfully at Junior in return, and the two have been playmates ever since. Even now, two years later, when Fritz saunters into the living room, Junior will jump to attention, Fritz will flop over on the floor, and the two will engage in what appears to be some sort of goofy and harmless mixed martial arts that is part wrestling, part boxing, and 100% slapstick. They seem to have implicitly agreed to the rules: no clawing and no biting, but sloppy kisses are allowed.
Have you witnessed an unusual pet pairing? Cute cat-canine camaraderie? Tell us about it!
To enter to win a copy of Paw of the Jungle, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “jungle,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 14, 2019. U.S. residents only and you must be 18 or older to enter. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. We delete all emails after the contest is over.
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 featuring a Christmas mystery short story with the character Meg Langslow, written by Donna Andrews.
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