Crime Fiction Alphabet: D is for Dogs

One of the ways that humanity seems to be divided into two camps is cat lovers and dog lovers (as always with these blunt divisions we’ll ignore those who love both or neither for the purposes of this post). From a crime fiction perspective cat lovers are pretty well catered for with several series all to themselves, the most well-known is probably The Cat Who… novels by Lillian Jackson-Braun. But what might dog loving crime fiction readers find for entertainment?

Laurien Berenson has written 15 books featuring teacher and amateur sleuth Melanie Travis, her standard poodle Faith and her Aunt Peg who is a breeder and judge of the breed. I featured one of her books, Watchdog, in the last round of the crime fiction alphabet but many of the other books take place in and around the slightly crazy world of dog breeding and judging so it’s definitely a good series for the dog lovers out there.

Michael Bond is best known as the creator of the Paddington Bear series of children’s books but he also has a long running mystery series for adults set in France. They feature Monsieur Aristide Pamplemousse who started his working life as a gourmet restaurant inspector but then turns to retire and become a travel and food writer. He investigates a rather alarming number of deaths associated with French restaurants with the help of his canine companion, a very intelligent bloodhound called Pommes Frites. In the fourth book of the series, Monsieur Pamplemousse Takes the Cure, our trusty investigator is perturbed by the lack of gourmet food at a health spa he is investigating but the dog tracks down some gourmet sausages and then helps clear up the troubles using a floating kennel filled with helium. Farce yes but clever too.

Ted Wood’s police procedural series set in Ontario Canada features Reid Bennett who is the Police Chief in the town of Murphy’s Harbour and is always accompanied by his attack-trained German Shepherd Sam. In 1985’s Live Bait the pair take on the task of locating the perpetrators of a series of vicious bashings of private security guards. Sam is often responsible for saving Ted’s skin in this series.

Susan Conant’s Dog Lover’s Mystery series currently runs to 18 titles. The first one, A New Leash on Death, was released in 1989 and introduces Holly Winter who in that novel at least is a columnist for Dog’s Life magazine (she later becomes a freelance writer). She is shocked to see some dog obedience trials end with the strangulation of one of the human competitors and feels obligated to investigate (thank heavens for busy body amateurs of course). Throughout the series Holly and the dog she adopts during the first book tackle a range of topical doggy subjects including puppy farming and various aspects of showing and breeding man’s best friend.

Even though there are no books involved I can’t leave the subject of crime fiction for dog lovers without talking about the Austrian-made German language TV series Kommissar Rex (which airs in English-speaking countries as Inspector Rex). The first of 11 seasons (so far) was shown in 1994 and features a three-man investigative team based in Vienna who use German Shepherd Rex as a cadaver dog, a snifferer-out of various contraband including drugs and all-around super hero (a more danger-loving Lassie if you will). The show is so popular in other countries that when it looked like being cancelled several years ago it was picked up by Italian TV and now Rex is in Rome with an Italian policeman (though I still miss the early days when Rex was looked after by Moser). The show is very popular here in Australia too so I suspect we’d have offered him a home if a suitable kennel hadn’t been found in Europe 🙂

As someone who has owned far more dogs than cats I must admit to a preference for canines in crime fiction myself. Do you have any favourite crime fiction for dog lovers?

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Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise is hosting the crime fiction alphabet meme which requires the posting of an article relating to the letter of the week (a book title, an author name, a subject…) Do join in the fun by reading the posts and/or contributing one of your own. You don’t have to write every week.

This is the second round of the meme which was first run from late 2009 to early 2010. My contributions that time were discussions of books with one word titles.

This entry was posted in Crime Fiction Alphabet, Laurien Berenson, Michael Bond, Susan Conant, Ted Wood. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Crime Fiction Alphabet: D is for Dogs

  1. kathy durkin says:

    I confess I do love both dogs and cats, grew up with cats, but have a close relationship with a neighbor’s Dachshund–and I swear she understands most of what is said to her. It’s uncanny.
    That said, I was a major fan of Susan Conant’s, read every book she wrote featuring her Malamutes Kimmie and Rowdy, and cat, every time one was published. And I own many of her books in paperback.
    I discovered David Rosenfelt’s books a few years ago. He writes humorous, legal mysteries; his defense attorney, Andy Carpenter, owns a Golden Retriever, and ends up defending dogs, representing dog witnesses (!), taking care of dogs. Rosenfelt, in real life, rescued 4,000 dogs with his family. His website has a hilarious video which shows his home, which is a shelter to from 19-40 elderly or ill dogs; they are everywhere.
    Various dog owner-readers have recommended “Dog Gone It,” which I have not read.


  2. kathy durkin says:

    One more series which has been suggested to me is by J.F. Englert, which features Randolph, a Lab who reads Proust, surfs the net and helps his owner, Harry, solve murders. While a human-like dog isn’t my preference as a crime solver, the person who recommended this series gives it high points. The library has it, so I’m reading it.


  3. Maxine says:

    I’m a cat person rather than a dog person – but I did not like the one book I tried in that “cat who…..” series by LJB. A dog features in the Joe Pickett novels by C J Box, she is the family dog who occasionally silently lets her feelings be known at various plot or action points. Unfortunately (?), she shares my first name so it is a bit strange when she appears in the books.
    I do prefer animals in fiction to be adjuncts to the story rather than the main event, I think.


  4. Bernadette – What a wonderful idea for this letter! Wish I’d thought of it, as I am a dog lover. I’m glad you mentioned Laurien Berenson’s books; as soon as I read your first couple of sentences I thought of them. There’s also an older series by Thomas L. Thornton, who wrote under the name of Melissa Cleary. Those novels feature university film department faculty member Jackie Walsh and her adopted German Shepherd, former police dog Jake. I read several of those.

    And of course a lot of dogs feature in crime fiction even when the series isn’t focussed that way. There’s Hannibal, who owns Agatha Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. There’s Bob the terrier, who plays a role in Christie’s Dumb Witness (AKA Poirot Loses a Client). Oh and lots more!

    I admit it, I just got such a big smile at your contribution 🙂


  5. Dorte H says:

    Great post!

    I am also a dog person, but on the spur of the moment I can´t remember any dog stories (except my own, for some reason; I still remember most of those I have written). For cat lovers I recommend Donna Moore´s “Go to Helena Handbasket” where the cat´s the cleverest character.

    Well, actually José´s review of Nesbø´s Redeemer today reminded me of the huge, black dog which plays a rather important role. But for dog lovers? – perhaps not 😀


  6. FleurFisher says:

    I’m a dog lover, and it’s good to know that there are some dogs out there balancing out all the crime fighting cats. Another that comes to mind is Nimrod’s Shadow by Chris Paling – Nimrod being a Jack Russell.


  7. Kerrie says:

    Thanks for this contribution to CFA Bernadette. I’m currently reading BURY YOUR DEAD by Louise Penny and there is a great dog in there that accompanies Gamache everywhere when he stays with a friend in Quebec. The dog particularly enjoys catching snowballs even though he has worked out that when he crunches on them they “disappear”.


  8. Yvette says:

    Bernadette, I LOVE mysteries with dogs, about dogs or even, narrated by dogs.
    Some of my favorites: The dog mysteries of Spencer Quinn, beginning with DOG ON IT. The dog mysteries of Carol Lea Benjamin beginniing with THIS DOG FOR HIRE and the dog mysteries of P.J. Englert beginning with DOG ABOUT TOWN. Fun books.

    I’m not familiar with the books you’ve mentioned in your post, but that’s easily fixed by a trip to the library. 🙂


  9. Tom says:

    Does anyone know why Melissa Cleary wrote under a man’s name?


  10. I don’t know Tom but I’d guess it’s for the same reason many other women do the same, or write using their initials – traditionally men do not buy/read books written by women – especially in the crime fiction field. Even today I know a couple of female Australian authors who were told to use their initials.


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