Going to the Dogs (and Cats)

For many of us, animals are an important part of our lives and their unique personalities enrich our existences. So, it seems only natural for them to play important roles in the books we enjoy. Our powerful connection with animals has been mirrored in children’s books for generations. Millions have enjoyed classics like Old Yeller, The Call of the Wild, Black Beauty and 101 Dalmatians. But the passion for pets isn’t limited to children’s books.

Stories with animal characters are also very popular with adults, especially mysteries. David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter Series, which has a golden retriever who helps his lawyer owner solve crimes, debuted in 2002. Another canine mystery series written by Peter Robinson under the pseudonym Spencer Quinn dates to 2009 and features the crime-busting duo of Chet, a lovable mutt, and his P.I. owner Bernie. Other mystery writers who write dog-centered series include Susan Conant (Dog Lover’s Mystery Series), Laurien Berenson (Melanie Travis Mystery Series), Krista Davis (Paws and Claws Mystery Series), Bethany Blake (Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery Series), Kathleen Delaney (Mary McGill Dog Mystery Series) and Esri Allbritten (Gigi Chihuahua Mystery Series).

While stories featuring dogs lend themselves to lighter, more humorous mysteries, there are also more serious novels featuring canines. Margaret Mizushima’s Timber Creek K-9 mysteries follow police officer Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo as they solve crimes in the mountains of Colorado. Mystery novelist Robert Crais, best known for his series featuring Los Angeles P.I. Elvis Cole, recently started a new series with K-9 Officer Scott James and his German shepherd partner, Maggie. And Sarah Driscoll’s FBI Canine series follows FBI Special Agent Meg Jennings and her Labrador, Hawk, as they sniff out terrorists and murderers.  

Cats and mysteries also seem to go hand-in-hand. The long-running The Cat Who… Mystery Series by Lilian Jackson Braun first debuted in 1966. It features two Siamese cats, Koko and Yum Yum, who help their owner solve crimes. Other mystery authors who feature cats prominently in their books include Carole Nelson Douglas (Midnight Louie Series), Sofie Kelly (Magical Cats Series), Miranda James (Cat in the Stacks Mystery Series), and Blaize Clement (Dixie Hemingway Mysteries Series).

But fictional dogs don’t only solve crimes; they are also responsible for human characters finding love and romance. Some recent romance series with dogs as part of the plot include Mara Well’s Fur Haven Dog Park Series, Debbie Burn’s Rescue Me Series and Jenn McKinlay’s A Bluff Point Romance Series.

If you’re not a mystery or romance reader, there are some general fiction authors who feature dogs in their novels. W. Bruce Cameron hit the bestseller lists in 2010 With A Dog’s Purpose and since then has written six “dog-focused” novels for adults as well as the Puppy Tales Collection and A Dog’s Way Home novel for young readers. Susan Wilson is another novelist who writes “dog-centric” tales, including What A Dog Knows and One Good Dog.

Beyond dogs and cats, numerous authors feature stories involving all sorts of critters Donna Andrews’s long-running Meg Langslow mysteries series always includes some sort of bird and feature clever titles such as, Gone Gull and Owls Well That Ends Well. Betty Webb’s The Gun Zoo Mystery Series has included animals as diverse as anteaters and otters. Clea Simon, who also writes three cat-centered mystery series, has featured bunnies, parrots and panthers in her books. And Rita Mae Brown has written various mystery series featuring horses along with dogs and cats.

As popular as animal-centric stories are, look for the trend to continue and for more authors to feature furry and feathered characters in their books in the future.

~Mary G.