Canine Cops

Of Mutts and Men is the tenth book in Spencer Quinn’s Chet and Bernie series. Bernie Little is the proprietor of the Little Detective Agency, and Chet, who weighs something over a hundred pounds and flunked out of K9 training on the last day (he thinks a cat may have been involved), is his loyal partner and narrator of the books. Needless to say, Chet is easily distracted (squirrel! bacon crumb!), but he’s always there when Bernie needs him, ready to grab a perp by the pant leg.

Chet and Bernie live in the Valley, in desert country somewhere between California and New Mexico, and Bernie has been worried for years about the depletion of the aquifer that provides water for the area. So when hydrographer Wendell Nero invites him to see something interesting in Dollhouse Canyon, Bernie is intrigued. Unfortunately, all he finds in Nero’s RV office is the scientist’s body, and not many clues.

Bernie does come up with a suspect quickly (more than the local sheriff’s deputy can manage on his own), but soon begins to wonder if he’s rounded up the wrong man. What did Nero want to show him? What’s going on at the vineyard in the next canyon? Who ended up with Nero’s laptop and cell phone?

Of Mutts and Men pits Chet and Bernie against a string of villains and sends them all around the Valley and even into Mexico in search of answers, in another excellent entry in the series. Chet and Bernie’s devotion to each other remains at the heart of these stories.

Bending the Paw is the ninth installment in Diane Kelly’s Paw Enforcement series, featuring Officer Megan Luz of the Fort Worth Police and her K-9 partner, Sergeant Brigit. In this one, Megan and Brigit team up with Detective Audrey Jackson to investigate what appears to be a particularly gruesome murder—lots of blood, but no body. Meanwhile, on her regular patrol duties, Megan searches for a conman who is cleaning up selling nonexistent roofing services to unfortunate homeowners hit by a recent hailstorm. And in between her duties, Megan is planning her wedding to Seth, her firefighter fiancé. (I’m looking forward to seeing how Brigit and Blast, Seth’s bomb-sniffing dog, fit into the wedding party.)

As always, Brigit (who doesn’t speak human and wishes Megan spoke dog) has a brief chapter between Megan’s first person narratives. Always eager to chase someone, Brigit doesn’t worry too much about anything beyond liver treats and chew toys.

Diane Kelly’s books have been on my auto-buy list for years. They always make me laugh out loud at least once. If you’re looking for a light hearted, well constructed mystery full of entertaining characters, you’ll enjoy any of her books.

Three More Series Cozies

Dead in the Doorway is the second installment in Diane Kelly’s House Flipper cozy mystery series, set in Nashville. Whitney Whitaker and her cousin and business partner Buck have bought a house on Songbird Circle to restore and sell, but their plan hits a snag when Whitney and her cat, Sawdust, find the body of one of the neighbors at the foot of a staircase.

No one on the cul-de-sac liked Nelda Dolan very much, but that hardly seems like a reason to push her down the stairs of an empty house. But what was she doing in the house? Searching for something? The previous owner’s family has taken everything they might want, and their late mother, Lillian, didn’t have much to leave behind, unless you count her recipes for prize-winning pies. There doesn’t seem to be anything else worth looking for—until Sawdust finds a secret hiding place.

Whitney can’t resist a bit of sleuthing between tearing out appliances and re-tiling floors (and she makes that all sound so simple!), and Detective Collin Flynn is pretty hard to resist, too. Between the two of them they’ll surely uncover the secrets of Songbird Circle.

Some Like It Shot is the latest installment in Zara Keane’s Movie Club Mysteries, featuring Maggie Doyle, a one-time San Francisco cop now working as a private investigator on the small Irish island where her father grew up and where Maggie spent summers as a child. Business is slow: her main case involves searching for a wandering Maine Coon cat. Then an American movie company arrives on the island. Maggie’s younger sister, an online “Beauty Influencer” (yes, apparently this is a Thing, although I have trouble wrapping my brain around it), has landed her first movie role—as the female lead.

Maggie is not thrilled; she and her sister have a rather dysfunctional relationship. But the movie shoot has been plagued with “accidents,” and Maggie and her off-the-wall assistant Lenny are hired to sniff out any possible sabotage. Maggie and her boyfriend, the sergeant in charge of the tiny Whisper Island police station, suspect that most of the accidents were just that, but when there’s a death on the set the danger ramps up quickly.

I really enjoy this series (this is the sixth book) with its mixture of mystery, humor, and small town Irish life (I did have to look up the pronunciation of a couple of names: the Irish clearly have their own version of the alphabet) and I hope there will be many more.

The Study of Secrets is the fifth installment in Cynthia Kuhn’s Lila Maclean Academic Mysteries. As it opens, Lila is winding up her sabbatical from Stonedale, staying in a cottage on the grounds of Callahan House, a Victorian mansion associated with Callahan College and now the property of Bibi Callahan. Long ago Bibi published three mystery novels under the name Isabella Dare, and Lila has been researching and writing a book on these nearly-forgotten works, while hoping that Bibi will admit publicly that she is, in fact, the author.

Lila has been organizing Bibi’s study for her, and in a locked drawer she finds the manuscript of an unpublished fourth novel. When one of Bibi’s life-long friends is murdered in the house and the manuscript vanishes, Bibi admits that the novel was a barely fictionalized version of the night when her younger sister disappeared, suggesting that she was killed by one of Bibi’s tight-knit circle of friends during a night of celebration between high school and college.

Bibi never meant anyone to see the manuscript, with its unfounded speculation, but when it gets out, and perhaps causes another death, Lila races to solve the long-ago mystery that appears to be the source of the present trouble.

Lila is still trying to finish her book on Isabella Dare—and find a publisher for it—and she’s also writing a mystery novel of her own, so I hope we’ll see another adventure before too long.

Love and Humor

I will read just about anything Diane Kelly writes (her grocery lists are probably funny), and Busted, a romance about a small town motorcycle cop named Marnie Muckleroy and a visiting Silicon Valley computer nerd called Trey, is no exception.


Marnie has her hands full with questions ranging from serious (who ordered those mysterious packages delivered to an empty house?) to funny (does she really have twin cops in her small department, or are Andre and Dante actually one guy pranking her?) to personal (who is the mystery man riding the yellow Ninja motorcycle?). And why does she feel the way she does about a man who’s only visiting for a few weeks?


Beneath Kelly’s trademark humor lie some serious threads. Marnie has PTSD from an incident when she was a big city cop in Dallas. Trey has some secrets in his past that he’d rather not share with Marnie.


Nevertheless, Busted is a rollicking romance filled with motorcycles, computer jokes, and great characters. Marnie insists she’s a street cop, not a detective, but she gives it her all, and if the reader guesses a few answers before Marnie does, that’s part of the fun. And this book is seriously fun.


Fort Worth Police Officer Megan Luz and her K9 partner, Sergeant Brigit, are back in Diane Kelly’s Paw of the Jungle. As usual, Kelly mixes humor into Megan’s investigative endeavors, and there’s plenty to investigate this time. Dastardly doings at the zoo multiply as rare and valuable animals vanish. Megan and Brigit team up with Detective Bustamente on the zoo caper, a real puzzler. How could anyone steal a rhinoceros?


Meanwhile back at the mall there’s a rash of stolen rings, and at the firehouse there’s a new female EMT who seems awfully interested in Megan’s boyfriend, Seth. Megan has her hands full, and Brigit has a lot of fun, and a steady supply of liver treats. I love this series.


For Witch or For Poorer is the fifth installment in AE Jones’ Paranormal Wedding Planner series, featuring the last member of the team, Giz (short for Gizmo, as he’s a witch who prefers using technology to magic) and Maeve, the East Coast werewolf who joined the West Coast pack in the previous book (For Better or For Wolf). Tensions between the werewolf packs have eased, but there’s a new threat, from an ancient and secretive coven called the Lunadorium. Giz may not like using magic, and he does have his reasons, but Maeve needs a witch to help her learn to control her emerging powers, and the pack needs his help, too.


All the characters from the previous books are back, including Giz’ eccentric cat, Monster, who has his own part to play in the proceedings. Throw in a baby shower, a visit to a street of magic brokers, and a sweet love story, along with Jones’ trademark humor and lovable characters, and you have a thoroughly enjoyable read.

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