To kick off Mystery Prose, I’m chatting with the amateur sleuths in the newest Mutt Mysteries titled To Fetch a Scoundrel. The second book in the series features four stories by Virginia authors, Heather Weidner, Jayne Ormerand, Rosemary Shomaker, and Teresa Inge. I thought it would be fun to see how our featured sleuths would answer interview questions about their latest mysteries.
Cat fights, fast cars, and dead bodies feature in our first story. Cassidy Green solves the crime in Heather Weidner’s The Fast and the Furriest.
Cassidy, thanks for taking time away from your racetrack to answer a few questions for your readers. What’s it like being a woman in the male-dominated racing industry? Was this your first choice of career?
Thanks so much for letting me stop by the blog. No, racing was my dad and uncle’s passion. I grew up on the track. (Our house is on the property in Amelia County, VA). I was a marketing director. When my father passed away, I inherited the track, so I quit the day gig, and I run the track full-time. I love the excitement and all the people. It’s hard sometimes as a female. It definitely is a male-dominated sport, but I have my trusty sidekick, Oliver. He’s my Director of Security.
So you solved the murder of driver, Donnie Ellis, at your track. Now that you’ve had a taste for crime fighting can we see you branching out into sleuthing again?
I felt I needed to get involved since the murder happened on my property. And during the whole ordeal, I found out that I was good at getting information from people. I don’t think I want to be full-time sleuth, but you never know if another mystery comes my way.
Your Rottweiler, Oliver, was your sidekick as you sniffed out the murderer. Do you think you could have solved this crime without him? If not, how did he help you find the criminal?
Oliver is my pal. He goes to work with me every day as my Director of Security for the track, and he is very effective. He’s really a pussycat, but he’s very protective of me. Oliver was instrumental in helping solve this crime. He found one of the major clues in the garage area.
In addition to running the racetrack, do you like to drive fast yourself? If so, what’s your fast car of choice?
I’ve driven cars on the track before, but I don’t consider myself to be a speed demon. I drive a Jeep Wrangler. It gets me everywhere I need to go. Oliver and I love to go for long rides in the country.
Our next amateur sleuth is Pilar Pruitt and her Labrador Natti. They are featured in Pawsitively Scandalous by Jayne Ormerond.
Pilar, was it difficult for you to plan a puppy shower when you had crime afoot in your neighborhood?
Yes. It is why God invented caffeine, to get us through the days that are physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually challenging. It seemed like a good idea on paper to wrap 50 homemade dog bones in grosgrain ribbon, and then sew matching bow ties for the boy dogs and coordinating neckerchiefs for the girl dogs. I learned that while your mind is focused on mundane tasks and pumped up on Diet Coke, the subconscious is fiddling with all the puzzle pieces and fitting them all together. Exhausting doesn’t even begin to cover it. It was all worth it, though. This resulted in happy mutts and happier neighbors now that our streets are once again safe to walk.
Your neighborhood seems like a blast to live in. Has the murder of your friend and neighbor changed the atmosphere or do you think that it has brought your community closer?
The latter, definitely. Neighbors who didn’t have dogs would keep their distance from The Dog Park Gang. Since the “incident”, I’ve met some of the cat people, a few bird people, a smattering of fish people, and one tortoise person. I never realized we had such a diverse neighborhood. The people who usually hunkered down inside now wander down to the dog park to chat. I’ve met a retired NASA analyst living six doors down from me, and a mildly successful artist who recently moved in across the green. Too bad it took the murder to bring us together.
How did your dog, Natti, help you solve the crime? Could you have done it without him?
Natti (short for Natural Light beer…he belonged to a fraternity boy before me…) was my biggest supporter. He always listens (or pretends to) as I talk through things, be they party planning or murder solving. He also faithfully takes me to the dog park, where talking to neighbors reveal some clues that the police are not privy to. That is what enabled me to figure out the killer without benefit of forensic science.
One final fun question. What is the “must have” gift to bring to a puppy shower?
You know how baby showers make diaper cakes? For a puppy, a Piddle Pad cake is always appreciated. See attached photo. The puppy…and the owner…will thank you. And since puppies chew…a lot…you can never go wrong with a chew toy. The selection out there is amazing, from plush squeakies to Himalayan Dog Chews made out of yak milk.
If you love a good glass of port and a crime with hints of organized crime and family drama, then Rosemary Shomaker’s Ruff Goodbye might be a perfect bite of a mystery for you. Len Hayes, restaurant owner, might not have a living canine companion by his side, but dogs certainly fetch the criminal in the end.
Len, you own The Beacon, and your wife is the brains behind the menu. Is it difficult to work with your spouse on a daily basis?
Not at all. Joyce is the color in my life, and my existence would be dull and boring without her! To others Joyce seems a bit scatterbrained, but, truth be told, she’s really the one who keeps me in line.
Tell us about Clarion and how he came to the restaurant.
Clarion is the perfect pet and everyone loves him! Visitors to The Beacon, and regulars alike, admire his calm watchfulness. We even ran a contest at the restaurant to decide his name. He’s a black Labrador retriever. Did you know that breed actually originated in Newfoundland, not Labrador? Clarion came to The Beacon because my wife Joyce couldn’t resist him when they met at an estate sale. I can’t tell you more now without letting on too much. Read “Ruff Goodbye,” and you’ll learn Clarion’s secrets.
You figured out who murdered your friends, but I heard that a poodle assisted you in your crime busting caper. Is this true or just a rumor by the folks who like little dogs?
Little dogs are enigmas. My late best friend Curt took a lot of ribbing about owning and loving his miniature poodle Cloud. Many said that owning a little poodle was not manly. It is true that Cloud was small, shy, and quiet, but to Curt those adjectives translated to compact, discerning, and attentive. Cloud was the perfect dog for Curt. Upon Curt’s death, Cloud bonded in grief with Curt’s widow Sharon and Curt’s stepdaughter Julie, and each took comfort in Cloud’s understated ways. I’ll credit Cloud with good judgement, though. He knew a scoundrel when he saw one, and he jumped to defend us all. Yes, Cloud the miniature poodle played a pivotal role in thwarting scoundrels in “Ruff Goodbye.”
What’s your favorite local wine or port to drink while reading a mystery?
Two nights before Curt’s funeral, we, the remainder of the Port & Poker Club, imbibed that great 1994 Fonseca vintage Port. Its black cherry, smoke, and currant layers of flavor and well-integrated brandy and tannins, along with the sweet finish, are sublime. However, I was quite impressed with Perry’s condolence gift to that low-life Lionel Winks Jr. at the funeral home. The spice-mocha-licorice palate of the 1977 Gould Campbell vintage Port is captivating. These, however, are special occasion fortified wines, in my opinion. They are also rather expensive at more than one hundred dollars per 1.5 pints, or about 25 ounces.
I like a nice bottle of Bellezza from The Glass House Winery near Charlottesville, Virginia. Aged for more than four years in whiskey barrels, Bellezza is a Port-style dessert wine fortified with grape brandy. Did you know a wine cannot be called “Port” unless it is made from distilled grape spirits exclusively in the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal? Perry taught us that. Who knew? That’s why a lot of red dessert wines intentionally have non-“Port” sounding names and are referred to by terms such as “Port-style” or “in the style of Port.” But, I digress. Back to your question about what I like to drink while reading a mystery. Yes, it’s the Bellezza. With it’s smooth, full bodied arrival, and its creamy deep mouth feel, the Bellezza is a winner. The spice and plum nose and the toffee and caramel hints on the palate can’t be beat—at less than twenty-five dollars a pint!
In A Doggone Scandal, author Teresa Inge pairs paws and pet supplies with her dog walking sleuth, Catt Ramsey.
Dog walking is an interesting career choice, Catt. Did you always want to be a dog walker, or did you have another career before this?
Prior to being a dog walker, I was a corporate event planner but was laid off during a down size. I loved planning events but decided to switch careers and do something I also loved which is working with animals.
You received an odd note in your pet supply delivery that set you on the trail of a mystery. Were you at all worried that you might be a target of the murderer?
Yes, since I wasn’t sure where it would lead I was very cautious when I drove to the Outer Banks to solve the mystery, but I had my sister Em, her boyfriend Jonathan Ray, and my dogs Cagney and Lacey with me.
I love your dogs’ names, Cagney and Lacy. Can you tell us how they helped you solve the murder?
Since they are always by my side, they helped by barking, biting, and alerting me to dangerous situations.
Finally, any tips for folks thinking about hiring a dog walker? Should the ability to solve a mystery be an important skill set?
Ha. No. But it seems to be the norm in my case. They just need to love dogs and walking which is good for both.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the interviews with our amateur sleuths featured in To Fetch a Scoundrel. The book is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other major book retailers. The first book, To Fetch a Thief, is also available and is a fun way to pass the day with your favorite pooch by your side.