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A Detective's Best Friend: Animals in Mysteries & Thrillers

FurryFriends._V332029823_[1]Our editors, authors, and friends have put together a list of their favorite books featuring furry companions.

Guy Ritchie’s film Snatch is a funny, fast, often upsetting yet endearing look at semi-organized crime in farcical modern London. One of the most memorable scenes comes when Sol and Vinny reveal that the stolen diamond, which Avi is after, has been eaten by the dog.  Moments before this discovery, we witnessed Bullet Tooth Tony, at Avi’s request, strangle and shoot 5 people to get at the diamond.  His reaction when asked to finally kill the dog and retrieve the stone is an abrupt face on his established ruthless character.

Avi: Look in the dog.
Bullet Tooth Tony: What do you mean "look in the dog?"
Avi: I mean open him up.
Bullet Tooth Tony: It's not as if it's a tin of baked beans! What do you mean "open him up"?

After all this bloodshed and violence, why does Bullet Tooth Tony hesitate when it comes to just killing the dog? The answer to this question is all at once complex and so simple: because people can be awful but dogs (and often cats) are always man’s best friend. 

Crime fiction has a long history of dog and cat relationships, from faithful companions to crime fighters themselves. The innocent (sometimes fluffy) nature of animals juxtaposed against the grit of crime fighting is a beloved theme for mystery and thriller writers

We asked our editors, some authors, and friends for their favorite M&T book featuring furry companions. Here are the top answers:

  • Suspect by Robert Crais -LAPD cop Scott James and his new partner, a German Shepard named Maggie, are struggling thru PTSD together while investigating the death of Scott’s previous partner Stephanie.  Typically animal mysteries are more on the cozy side but Crais’ hardboilid dog is an amazing addition to the genre.
  • The Cat Who… Mystery Series by Lilian Jackson Braun- No list of animal mysteries could possibly be complete without these.   Jim Qwilleran is a reporter who solves crimes with his two Siamese cats. At times silly but always entertaining, The Cat Who… series has been a life-long favorite of many responders.
  • Peril for Your Thoughts by Kari Lee Townsend- Kalli is an amateur sleuth with OCD and a very particular cat. Enter Nik, a loud, fun-loving detective with a big messy St. Bernard. They team up to solve a murder, and maybe –after much antagonism- the sparks will fly, but only if they and their fuzzy friends can also find a way to get along. 
  • Burning Man by Alan Russell- LAPD cop Michael Gideon and his police dog partner Sirius became reluctant celebrities after capturing a notorious serial killer in the midst of an inferno. When a teenager is found crucified in a city park, Gideon and Sirius are handed the bizarre case. Their special man-and-dog partnership makes them uniquely qualified to solve the most bizarre crimes in LA.
  • The Adventure of the Speckled Band by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle- Not a dog, not a cat, but an animal crime none the less.  We won’t say much more except to say even this bizarre, deeply creepy murder can’t fool the world’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes.

 

Wonder Woman '77 Interview with Marc Andreyko

Wonder Woman '77 writer Marc Andreyko discusses the new series that just debuted as a digital-first comic.     

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Were you a fan of the Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman?

Absolutely, I loved the show. I used to spin around like a m
ad man hoping to change my clothes.

 

With the BATMAN ’66 series being such a success, were you excited to get your hands on a classic property of your own?

Oh yeah, absolutely. When I was having lunch with Hank Kanalz a little over a year ago I said to him “You know, now that you have BATMAN ’66 , when is WONDER WOMAN ’77 coming out?” And he looked at me with a raised eyebrow. Then cut to six months later, I get the email saying “Hey, we want to do this. Do you want to do it?” and I was like “Of course I’ll do it! Yes! No one else can!”

 

Will WONDER WOMAN ’77 be a retelling of the TV series, or will it be new adventures set in the same universe?

 It’s all new adventures set in the same universe. Unlike the original TV show, we have an unlimited special effects budget. So I get to bring in villains from the comic book that never got to appear in live-action.

 

Who else from the TV series can fans look forward to seeing in WONDER WOMAN ’77? Will there be new characters as well?

Mainly it’s going to be the regular characters: Diana Prince, Wonder Woman, and Steve Trevor. There will be some other characters from the run popping in now and again, but they’re the primary focus of the series. And yeah I’ll be introducing all sorts of classic villains from Wonder Woman’s rogues’ gallery that never got the chance to appear in live-action. So that will be a lot of fun… and no I’m telling you who any of them are!

 

What sets this Wonder Woman title apart from the others? What is different about this Diana as a character?

Well one, it’s set in 1977 *laughs* which definitely sets it apart visually. And two, the Lynda Carter portrayal of Wonder Woman is the reason why it’s so iconic and why for most people in the world, that’s what they think when they think Wonder Woman. So there’s an elegance, a regalness, an accessibility ,and just a respectfulness that Lynda brought to that portrayal of Wonder Woman. It’s an iconic portrayal of an iconic character so it’s complementary to all of the other different versions of Wonder Woman that are out there now, but still very faithful to the amazing work that Lynda Carter brought to her interpretation of the character.

 

What’s your favorite superhero TV show currently on the air?

Currently on the air, I would probably have to say The Flash, because The Flash is so joyful and fun and he’s this hero who, even though he’s been shaped by tragedy, he enjoys being a superhero. There are so many superheroes who are burdened by their destiny to fight evil, and the Flash actually looks like he’s having fun doing it. And the crossover they did with Arrow was fantastic, that really did a nice job of showing the contrast between those two characters. It reminded me of the old Warner Bros. cartoon with the giant bulldog that has the kitten who rode on his back, and the kitten would claw at his back. It was like Barry Allen was this kitten clawing at his back and being adorable and Arrow is like “Kid, you’re bothering me.” So that was great.

Comics are having a real renaissance in TV and it’s so interesting to see so many of the properties come to life. I have to say, the last couple episodes of Constantine really found its voice and raised its bar, and I hope that it comes back because it is becoming a really good show.

 

With the upcoming solo movie announced, Wonder Woman has been getting a lot of media attention. What would you like to see for the character going forward now that she’s in the spotlight more?

What I’ve found the most interesting about Wonder Woman is that she is this warrior, this Amazon, but like any good warrior she wants to use violence as a last resort. She wants to resolve conflict in ways that don’t issue that, I think that’s where she stands out in the canon of superheroes. She can kick ass with the best of them and she’s a force to be reckoned with, but that’s never her go-to place. It’s never even in her top ten list of ways to resolve conflict. I’ve been really aware of that watching the show, that there was very little of Wonder Woman punching people out. It’s been a great challenge in the best sort of way as a writer to write Wonder Woman and have her resolve the conflicts with the least amount of violence and destruction. I think that’s a really good message to have, especially in this day and age when you see all these horribly violent things happening. Just because you have a power doesn’t mean you need to use it to resolve a conflict. I think that is ultimately a really great message.

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

Also, too, remember it is the seventies so we have lava lamps, bell bottoms, pet rocks, and all that stuff. So break out your fondue pots and get your digital Wonder Woman *laughs*.

What a Twist: Books with a Surprise Twist

WhataTwist._V333225393._AA350_[1]Mysteries are present in all kinds of storytelling, from screen, to the stage, to song, to books. Boiled down to the simplest terms, a good mystery introduces the conflict and action that literally “makes stuff happen” for our entertainment. 

I have often been asked after reading so many: “Doesn’t it all become somewhat predictable?”   Sure it can, but I have found that the quest for the book with the perfect twist I didn’t see coming is just as satisfying as the actual mystery itself. 

Recently I asked our editors, some authors, and friends for their favorite book with a surprise twist.  Here were the top responses, spoiler free:  

Fatal Puzzle, by Catherine Shepherd: Present day Journalist Emily Richter is assigned a series of articles about the historic Zons killings which took place in 1495. However, right before her stories are to be published, a young woman’s body is found hanging from a city tower—grossly maimed and wearing a linen gown, like her medieval predecessors. This intricate puzzle may have you taking notes to keep track of all the clues, as readers are transported thought time to uncover the truth of these sinister murders. 

Trent’s Last Case, by EC Bently: Widely regarded as a definitive masterwork in the mystery genre. Portrait artist and gentleman sleuth Philip Trent discovers overlooked details of a recent murder by reading the reports in his local newspaper.  Readers will note that not all his deductions are sound, and just when you are sure he will never solve it, you come face to face with the truth.  “One of the three best detective stories ever written.” —Agatha Christie

Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane: U.S. Marshals Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule have come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, to investigate the disappearance of a patient. Multiple murderess Rachel Solando is loose somewhere on this remote and barren island. As a hurricane bears relentlessly down on them, a strange case takes on even darker, more sinister shades -- with radical psychological experimentation, nothing on the island is what it seems.

Pines, by Blake Crouch: Secret Service agent Ethan Burke is sent to find a missing fellow agent in the remote Idaho town of Wayward Pines.  Within moments of arriving his car is hit by a semi-truck leaving him in intensive care in the local hospital.  When he awakes he has no ID, no money, no phone, and, it seems, no escape. 

Presumed Innocent, Scott Turrow: Rusty Sabicch, chief deputy prosecutor in Chicago, has three weeks to go in his boss' re-election campaign when a woman on his staff is found murdered.  He is charged with finding the killer, until he incredibly finds himself accused of the murder. Politics, infidelity, and court drama keep readers guessing in this classic legal thriller.

And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie:  An undisputed master of the twist, some are more satisfying than others, but Christie never fails to keep us guessing!  And Then There Were None remains a fan favorite of hers, and even after all these years the perfectness of the puzzle is masterful. 

The Girl from Nowhere, Christopher Finch: “I’m being followed,” she said. “I think he wants to kill me.” And so we are introduced to the girl from nowhere, Sandy Smollett.  Our hero, Alex Novalis, does everything he can to protect her, but with mobsters and thugs on their trail he barely has time to breath much less discover the truth about her.  But hang on, the payoff is worth it.

 

 

Behind The Scenes with Author Robert Dugoni

Robert Dugoni, New York Times bestselling author of My Sister's Grave, talks to us about some real life killers that fooled everyone and how they horrify, fascinate and inspire him.

 

Guest Post: Marc Brown on the Adventures of Arthur

ArthurThe beloved Arthur Adventure books are now available on Kindle for the first time. See what creator Marc Brown has to say about Arthur's changes over the years.

Arthur has changed over the years—have you noticed? When I first drew him for my son in 1976, he looked more like an aardvark. He had a very long nose and that's where the idea for the very first Arthur story started. Arthur was worried about his nose and wanted to change it because it was giving him all kinds of trouble. Arthur has many problems in his life as we all do but it's always fun to see how he deals with his problems and solves them. 

I've been drawing Arthur now for almost 40 years and the more I was drawing him, the rounder his head became. His nose got shorter and he began to look more human. Over the years I got to know Arthur better and better. He, and all the characters I write about in Arthur's world, came from real people I grew up with and knew as a child. I think that's one reason so many kids can identify with my characters.

I can't imagine a day when I don't draw or doodle. In first grade, I got in trouble for drawing in school. My friend Alan liked to see me draw race cars and rocket ships but my teacher thought I should be doing my school work. In fourth grade I got into trouble for daydreaming too much and today my job is daydreaming and drawing. I wonder if my teachers would be surprised to know that I turned out just fine even though I'm drawing and daydreaming. 

Although I write many books and am considered an author, my favorite part of telling the story is with pictures. So, I guess I consider myself more of an illustrator than an author. It just so happens that I have to write the story so I can illustrate it. And I want you to know how lucky I feel each morning when I go to my studio. I get to do what I love: writing and illustrating stories that many kids enjoy reading. 

It amazes me that Arthur continues to have new adventures and one of his newest is on Kindle. I think it's great that you can now read my books on your cell phone, computer, or tablet anywhere and anytime you want to read them. In books or on screens, as long as kids are reading, I'm very happy. Arthur's last name isn't Read by accident. 

Want to learn how to draw Arthur? Click here to watch an instructional video.

Guest Post by Liliana Hart Author of the J.J. Graves Mysteries

51qUSWKK5YL._UX250_[1]Liliana Hart, New York Times bestselling author of the J.J. Graves Mysteries, discusses the series and her writing process.

Down and Dirty is the fourth book in my J.J. Graves mystery series, set in the fictional town of Bloody Mary, Virginia. It’s both the easiest series I have to write and the hardest. That’s a contradictory statement, right? When J.J. Graves appeared in my head—an ER doctor turned mortician and coroner—she came with a whole lot of baggage. I didn’t always understand where she was coming from, but I found out very quickly that J.J. and I had more in common than just our looks.  

The core of J.J. Graves morphed into the darker side of my personality—the side only those closest to me get to see. J.J. is sarcastic and smart, she’s got real world problems—like debt and a family she’s not quite sure she fits in with—and she wants to find love and be loved in return. I wanted to make her relatable and give her issues—whether her own issues or those of the people closest to her—that don’t always make people comfortable, but have to be dealt with nonetheless.

So when I say it’s both the easiest and hardest series to write, it’s because putting her on the page comes as naturally as breathing, but tackling some of those issues isn’t always easy for me or her either one.

One of my favorite parts of writing this series is the research I get to do. I’ve observed an autopsy, gotten to embalm someone, done numerous ride-alongs with different police departments, shot various guns, listened to countless hours of cop stories, and I’ve met the real Jack Lawson in person (Jack is the Sheriff and J.J.’s love interest in the series). I’ve observed the personalities of cops and how they interact with each other and civilians, and I’ve taken what I’ve learned and written them as true to life as I possibly can.

I never know what the next story in this series will be, who the killer is, or what’s going to happen to throw a wrench into the life J.J. is trying to build. I like to be as surprised as my readers when I’m writing. But I do know it’s a joy to sit down at the keyboard every morning with J.J. and Jack. It’s also pure torture.

My Series in 15 Seconds

Can these bestselling crime fiction authors get you hooked on their entire series in 15 seconds or less?

 

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Guest Post: Jessie Humphries, Author of the Ruby Rose Series

Ruby_roseJessie Humphries, author of the Ruby Rose series, shares her picks for the most memorable books of 2014.

As precocious little girls—whenever my sister and I were feeling especially cantankerous—we would tease each other with “You’re such a cow face.” You see, somewhere along the way, someone told us that there are two shapes of faces: a roundish cow face or a longish horse face. We decided we’d rather have the latter, probably since My Little Pony toys were all the jazz.

Later on, we learned that it’s okay to have a long or round or whatever shape face we happened to have at the time (depending upon freshman-fifteens, breakups, babies, etcetera). Actually we learned that this information was a bunch of horse sh*! (or cow sh*! depending on your view), but it’s managed to stay with me all these years just the same.

Well, it turns out that 2014 is the Chinese Year of the Horse…and my birth year is also Year of the Horse…and I’m writing this post just after a trip to Chinatown in San Francisco where I bought a Year of the Horse calendar…so I’ve claimed 2014 as my year. (You see my line of thinking is a lot like Lombard St.—the windiest street in San Fran and the world.)

And you know what? So far, so good. Not only has 2014 turned out to be the year I debuted as an author, but it’s also a year full of amazing reads. Here are some of them:

Gilded by Christina Farley The stunning first book in the contemporary fantasy series. (Book two, Silvern, which also released in 2014, is equally beautiful.) This series has it all. Gorgeous cover: check. Fascinating mythology: check. Main character that knows how to fight: check. Rich Korean culture: check. Hot boys/hotter immortals: check.

Remake by Ilima Todd A dystopian book unlike any you’ve ever read. In a society where children are raised androgynously, they are forced to choose once they’re seventeen years old. This book is controversial, emotional, provoking, and powerful—all things I happen to love.

The Eighth Guardian by Meredith McCardle A time travel novel to blow your mind. It’s like a history lesson wrapped in bacon, dipped in chocolate, and deep-fried in sweet donut batter. (The bacon being the sizzling storyline, the chocolate being the rich historical detail, and the deep-fried batter being the twists and turns that make your blood pressure skyrocket…and then leave you wanting more.)

Elevated by Elana Johnson A contemporary novel set in an elevator and written in verse. I acknowledge that the idea of an entire book being written in poetry is scary. Scary-boring or scary-intellectual. Maybe even scary-bad. This book defies all those concerns you may have had.

Push Girl by Jessica Love and Chelsie Hill An inspiring and real contemporary novel about how life can change in an instant, based on the life of Chelsie Hill, one of the stars of the Sundance Channel’s unscripted series "Push Girls." 

Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee A fantasy full of magic, mythology, and intrigue. This is the kind of story that begs to be made into an HBO series. I’d love to see some director take on the challenge of visually creating the world Miss Lee built with words alone.

Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker A supernatural story set in the swamps of the Deep South. The atmosphere in this book is so pervasive that I can feel the sticky atmosphere lingering in my soul as I type these words. We got gators, we got strange happenins, and we got secrets. Eerie and beautiful, this gothic fairytale story will haunt you long after you read the last page. Excuse me while I go round myself up some moonshine or mead and read it again.