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Sleuths of the Canine and Feline Persuasion

By Richard Wells • April 11, 2016

The curse of the binary is in dividing the world into two kinds of people: people who eat the pizza's crust and those who don't, pie people vs. cake people, mustard people and catsup people, and speaking of cats, there seem to be cat people and dog people. Groan if you like, but this is a serious division, at least to dog people and cat people.

This world-class divide has even spawned a sub-genre of detective fiction starring cats and dogs who aid in the detection of crime and apprehension of criminals. These are not your run-of-the-mill K-9s or subversive felines but animals with vocabularies.

Further deepening the matter are folks who think that cats by their curious yet aloof character can much more easily discover who done what than dogs who are prone to bumping into things, salivating over evidence, and giving up the chase for a pastrami stick. To be fair, dogs make much better protectors, and no matter how fierce, can melt a criminal's heart with a wag, lean, or lick.

Witness author and punster Spencer Quinn's characters Chet and Bernie, the leads in the wonderful Chet and Bernie Mystery Series. Chet the dog is not only Bernie's boon companion, he's also the narrator. There's nothing fancy about Chet but his ability to lead Bernie to solutions, and when he's not going about his duty, he'd just as soon snack, snooze, or cuddle up to one of Bernie's love interests, pretty much in that order. Chet's a perfectly fine dog, and the first book in the series, Dog On It, is a book fine enough to entertain an author in need of a little entertainment, Mr. Stephen King.

Now, because we at ThriftBooks are nothing if not eminently fair to the world of fur, we present Rita Mae and Sneaky Pie Brown's Mrs. Murphy Series. The first book in the series, Wish You Were Here, introduces the trio of sleuths: Mary Minor (Harry) Haristeen and her four-leggeds Mrs. Murphy (cat) and Tucker (dog). The three sometimes testy collaborators live in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, and the authors give us not only a good murder, but also a slice of small town life. Sneaky Pie Brown, the co-author, is a cat, thus getting one up on Chet, from Dog On It, who's merely a narrator.

There seems to be something about the dogged pursuit of puns in this sub-genre of fiction because Susan Conant definitely rivals Mr. Quinn's penchant for wordplay as evident in A Dog Lover's Mystery Series. Try Paws Before Dying, starring Holly Winter, a true dog person from a line of dog people, her niece Leah, and two bounding malamutes investigating a murder. Susan Conant has quite a pedigree as seven-time winner of the Dog Writers of America's Maxwell award. Maxwell was not a dog.

The Cat Who? Series wins my award for longevity?not only nine lives, but 29 volumes. The paw-lific (sorry) Lilian Jackson Braun brings the amateur detective and newly sober Jim Qwilleran and his Siamese Koko to life in The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, the first in the series. Reading backwards? Well, nobody ever said cats weren't clever.

The Long Good Boy is one of Shamus Award?winning author Carol Lea Benjamin's Rachel Alexander & Dash Series. Rachel and her pit bull Dash are denizens of New York City's Greenwich Village and ply their trade in the back alleys and wide avenues of the Big Apple. The Long Good Boy takes place in the highly atmospheric meat-packing district, and the series is distinctly ?noirish.? Yes, the long good boy in question is a dachshund.

Carol Lea Benjamin is a double whammy of an author who also writes dog training books. Take a look at Dog Training in Ten Minutes, and then try training a cat in that amount of time. On second thought, skip the cat part.

Oh, Las Vegas! Carol Nelson Douglas loves Sin City like cats love catnip, especially the 20-pound Tom with the evocative name of Midnight Louie, star of Catnap, book 1 in the Midnight Louie Series. Louie is a cat about town and the purr-fect private eye, seeing all, keeping mum, and leading his human through the Vegas jungle with an unerring instinct for nailing the bad guy.

For the younger audience, Author Andrew Cope has put a series together for the 7-12 year-old set of dog-loving readers with the Spy Dog Series, kicking off with Spy Dog. A spy dog is everything the name implies. Her name is Lara, her designation is GM451, and though a mutt at heart, LARA stands for Licensed Assault and Rescue Animal. Lara's job is to foil the bad guys of international espionage.

Seven-year-olds will grab a Jack Russel Dog Detective Series mystery by the scruff and not let go until they've shaken down the whole series. Husband and wife team Darrel and Sally Odgers start the series in the town of Doggeroo with Jack (the dog) and Sarge (his human), though you'd think the names would be vice versa. In the first book, Dog Den Mystery, things go missing and it's up to Jack to sniff them out. Puns galore?a hazard of the trade?but Dog Den Mystery will win the kids over.

I'm wondering if you've ever dressed your dog up like Sherlock Holmes. Or if you've got a good story about your cat finding something you thought was hopelessly lost. What happened to those slippers anyway? My animals have always been more criminally minded?like Kitty Black who would knock food off the counter for Osso, my dumb dog. The worst was anything powdered. Leave a comment and tell us all about it, or, what the heck, even the antics of your four-legged criminals.

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