It’s a mystery to me…
Ever since Edgar Allen Poe penned “The Murders in the Rue Morgue“—arguably the first modern detective story—in 1841, readers have loved detectives. And we especially love amateur ones. Because, let’s face it: there are relatively few amateur brain surgeons or nuclear physicists, but who doesn’t believe they could tell a roomful of suspects, “You’re probably wondering why I’ve gathered you all here?”
But I think it goes even deeper than that. Hard-coded in our DNA is the need for things to be fair. The bad guys aren’t supposed to win. And if it seems that there are way too many times when they do, well…that just means we need a little old lady who knits, or someone with a cat, or the owner of the neighborhood bakery to step in and catch the bad guy. Because it’s only fair, and oh yeah—it’s elementary.
For example, check out my detective mystery prototype below. [With much, much thanks to the incredibly fun Plot Generator, of course!]
THE SYMPATHETIC STRANGER
Penelope Marysue has the perfect life working as a head janitor in the city and dumpster-diving with her brilliantly insightful boyfriend, Guy Hero.
However, when she finds an iridescent stuffed giraffe in her cellar, she begins to realize that things are not quite as they seem in the Marysue family.
An International Clown Convention leaves Penelope with some startling questions about her past, and she sets off to the ugly underbelly of Anaheim to find some answers.
At first the people of Anaheim are kickass and spunky. She is intrigued by the curiously sympathetic washed-up race car driver, Cliff Overthetop. However, after he introduces her to the street-version of Candy Crush, Penelope slowly finds herself drawn into a web of lust, vote rigging and perhaps, even texting while driving.
Can Penelope resist the charms of Cliff Overthetop and uncover the secret of the iridescent stuffed giraffe before it’s too late, or will her demise become yet another Anaheim legend?
- If this is a hard-boiled detective story, Penelope may start out with a partner. If so, said partner will probably be older, perhaps dishonest, but certainly not long for this world. (Especially if Penelope starts delivering a running monologue, at which point the only thing left for her partner to do is make sure the life insurance is paid up and the whiskey polished off.) The high mortality rates must make Detective Partnering one of the most hazardous lines of work ever, second only to those guys who wear the red shirts on Star Trek and get killed between the first and second commercial breaks.
- If everything happens too fast for you to keep up with clues but there’s blood everywhere and probably several explosions and chase scenes and Penelope has a knife to her throat at least once, it’s a thriller.
- If Penelope is a member of the police force who ignores direct orders from his/her superiors, it is a police procedural.
- If Penelope is a little old lady, speaks with a southern accent, or has a cat, it is a cozy mystery.
- If the cat answers back, it is magical realism.
- If the talking cat belongs to a wizard detective, it is an urban fantasy.
Updated for today’s reader, cozy mystery sleuths might might be cupcake bakers, tarot card readers, or even service dog trainers like Marcia, the heroine of Kassandra Lamb’s new mystery series.
Blurb: To Kill A Labrador, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery by Kassandra Lamb
Being normal can get complicated…
Marcia (pronounced Mar-see-a, not Marsha) likes to think of herself as a normal person, even though she has a rather abnormal vocation. She trains service dogs for combat veterans with PTSD. And when the ex-Marine owner of her first trainee is accused of murdering his wife, she gets sucked into an even more abnormal avocation–amateur sleuth.
Called in to dog-sit the Labrador service dog, Buddy, she’s outraged that his veteran owner is being presumed guilty until proven innocent.
With Buddy’s help, she tries to uncover the real killer. Even after the hunky local sheriff politely tells her to butt out, Marcia keeps poking around. Until the killer pokes back…
- Book Title: To Kill A Labrador, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery
- Author: Kassandra Lamb
- Genre: Cozy Mystery
Length: 190 pages
Publisher: Misterio Press LLC (April 10, 2016)
- Purchase Links: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Kobo | iBooks | Barnes and Noble
My Review: 5 out of 5 stars for To Kill A Labrador (A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery) by Kassandra Lamb
I admit it. I was worried. So was my dog. I love detective stories, especially cozy mysteries with their quirky, humorous amateur detectives. We had no trouble watching Miss Marple or Mrs. Fletcher or just about anybody with a cat wade through bodies gathering clues and outsmarting the murderer. Except… the body in question does NOT get to be a dog. Especially a labrador.
Kassandra, please forgive me. SPOILER ALERT! The lab is NOT the murder victim. Whew!
With that out of the way, I can tell you that like Kassandra Lamb’s other mysteries, this one is character-driven in the best possible way. Marcia is struggling to rebuild her life after leaving a cheating ex-husband and city life behind. As far behind as possible, in fact, as she’s chosen to move to a tiny Florida town to start her new career training service dogs for veterans suffering from PTSD. Her first success, Buddy, has gone to help Jimmy, a young vet trying to rebuild his life and young family after losing his leg. When Jimmy is suspected in the murder of his wife, Marcia steps in to care for Buddy.
As she starts to investigate, Marcia isn’t surprised that the small town closes ranks against her as an outsider. But she doesn’t expect two things. First, her personal no-dating policy is under siege from the handsome town sheriff, another outsider. And second, someone has murdered before and seems willing to do it again.
I enjoyed the way Marcia’s character develops over the course of this short book. From her internal monologue (which speaks surprisingly often in her mother’s voice) to her new Southern friends, the internal walls Marcia has built around her emotions are steadily pulled down. The pace is just right for the first book in a series. We have the chance to see Marcia’s life, learn enough about her past to understand her fears of forming relationships, and see how her own love of the dogs she’s training connects her to the people around her.
One of her best tools for showing us how characters react is humor. I particularly enjoyed seeing Marcia struggle against her attraction to Sheriff Will. “I found myself giving him a simpering smile and a little wave. My inner voice suggested that I slap myself silly.”
As a mystery writer, Kassandra plays fair with her readers. We see the clues as they come to Marcia, and have plenty of time to guess killers and motives. We’re also treated to descriptions of her Florida small-town setting that let us picture the action and context perfectly. And best of all, Kassandra brings her career as a psychotherapist to giving us an understanding of characters’ actions as well as motivations. This is so subtle, though, that I never even noticed until suddenly a character was acting completely against the persona we’d come to know.
I raced through this book, enjoying the crime-solving, but really loving the character development, pacing, and humor. Five stars, and I can’t wait to read more about Marcia and Buddy.
*I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.*