Pets in Mysteries

Mystery books are the genre I enjoy reading and writing the most. Lately, I’ve noticed my stack of cozy mysteries has grown, many of which involve pets in some way. Cats and dogs, specifically. In pondering why this has been a factor in my reading, I’ve come to the conclusion I’ve been seeking somewhat lighter fare. Books with a good puzzle to solve, but that are considered more “comfort” reads, with a good resolution and happy ending.

The pets in recent and current readings have such attributes as being affectionate, loyal, curious, obedient or not, cute and even humorous. Some have that instinctive sense of good and evil and/or use their scent abilities. Some even help describe their owners’ traits or personalities.

Sometimes, animals in books are more family members than pets and as such, are involved in the plot more like actual characters. They often set the scene with their own cute antics to which readers can endearingly relate. Pets with acute instincts or sense of smell are more to my personal liking when it comes to animals involved in the mystery’s solution. I’m not really fond of talking animals in stories, but that’s just my preference.

In my own book, SHE HAD TO KNOW, I introduce Pippi, a black cat who seems to think she is the mother of Scotti, a white West Highland Terrier. They are both family members who appear just a few times being the animals they are, chasing one another, sleeping together, or just being nosy. But, since they have such small roles, they are not featured on the cover.

There are authors who have animals based on their protagonist’s vocation, for instance, veterinarians or pet sitters, or protagonists who have more exotic animals, like birds, turtles or potbellied pigs. If a reader sees a book on a bookstore shelf with a domestic animal on the cover, I think they automatically are inclined to assume the book is not going to be hard boiled and quite possibly, cozy. I may be wrong, but it seems to me there has been an upsurgence of these kinds of books lately. Is it me? Could it be a reflection of readers’ desires to escape the challenges of today’s world? What do you think? Do you have any animals in your stories? If so, how did you use them? Or, if you are a reader and not a writer, are these among the kind of books you enjoy reading? I’d love to learn your viewpoint.


Filed under books, musings, writing

8 responses to “Pets in Mysteries

  1. Suzanne Baginskie

    Hi Coco: When I first started reading seriously as an adult, I fell in love with Lillian Jackson Braun. She wrote “The Cat Who” series. Her two cats, Koko and Yum Yum helped solve mysteries. Her first was The Cat Who Could Read Backwards in 1966. I got married that year and almost read them all. I am a cat person, more than a dog person, so they really appealed to me. I think having animals in novels help the characters seem more human and most reader can identify with them. Reading a cozy is a great relaxing fun read to make you forget the horror this world faces daily.

    • You are so right, Suzanne! I guess we’re in escape mode.:-)
      Thank you for reading my post and for leaving a comment. It’s always lovely hearing from a fellow writer!

  2. Pat Gordon

    Hi Coco, I enjoyed reading your animals article. I never thought about animals in a story, an interesting idea.
    Regards, Pat

    • Hi Pat, I imagine you’ve seen animals in emails or Youtube that are cute and evoke the “aaawww factor” in people. That happens in book, too, and often serves as a release after a tense scene, or to illustrate a comfortable setting. The Cozy genre of mystery books doesn’t have graphic violence, swear words or graphic sex scenes, as a rule; they’re more family fare and often are escape, easy reading material. Sometimes, it’s nice to be carried away to another setting with quirky characters to solve a puzzle along with the writer. It’s a nice break from more serious books. I’m on a roll with these type right now. 🙂

  3. Melissa Marici

    Foreboding – that’s such a great part for pets in thrillers. A dog barking wildly at the door, or better yet, the attic entryway or under the bed, or at a guest at the house who might be a suspect. Another scary tactic is having a character walk into their home waiting to be greeted by their rambunctious loyal dog only to find an eerily silent house – oh no, what happened to Skippy? Or what about when the dog breaks away from his owner and darts into the woods and starts digging up … a grave! So many fun parts for Spot, or Coco, or Benji, or Fluffy, or Buddy, or Princess … and what about the unforgettable boiled rabbit. On the flip side, the true stories of rescue dogs are magnificent to read about and so are those of service dogs. And the fiction tales of pets in general – from Black Beauty horse stories to Dribble turtle stories, who doesn’t like a great tale of the bond between an individual and their beloved pet, whether it be non-fiction or fiction. Our capacity to love an animal is undeniable.

  4. I like to visit bookstores with a friend and we’ve noticed increasing numbers of books with animals on the cover. We notice them and pick them up, so it clearly works as an advertising approach. They say animals bring out the best in people, so maybe books with animals bring oUT the best in the reader.

    • Sheila, I’m glad you noticed the increasing number, as well. Interesting. Let’s hope these book do bring out the best in readers. We could all do with more kindness in this world. Thanks so much for your comment.

  5. Hi Coco — I couldn’t put “Sea Biscuit” down!

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