There’s a mystery sub-genre for all occasions and tastes. Literally. You want to read a mystery with food in it? There’s an entire sub-genre devoted to it. You want to read a mystery that involves some hardcore knitting? There’s an entire sub-genre devoted to it. You want to read a mystery that involves cute dogs and cats? Well, this post is for you!
Personally, as much as I enjoy mysteries, I’ve never really delved into these types of mystery sub-genres.
Knitting and needle-crafts in general are not my friends, so that’s just not even an option.
But it’s really kind of odd that I’ve never gotten into pet mysteries because I really do like pets, specifically dogs. I’m currently owned by a 3-lb. Chihuahua named after a Roman emperor.
Even beyond my own personal enjoyment of animals, one of the first books I remember loving as a child featured pet detectives (sort of)–Bunnicula. Granted, they were paranoid and not always terribly competent pet detectives, but that was a huge part of their charm.
So, if like me you’re a newbie to the world of pet cozy mysteries, here’s a roundup of introductory titles to this oddly-specific genre.
If you like dogs:
Spencer Quinn’s Dog On It (2009)
I must confess, I actually assumed that all pet cozy books were narrated by the animals and was slightly confused and even disappointed to learn that is not always the case. But if pet narration is what you like, Spencer Quinn’s likable Chet and Bernie series might be for you. Bernie is a former cop turned private eye. Chet is his dog, but it’s Chet’s story the whole way since he is the narrator. The series is popular for its blending of humor and mystery and action.
Recommended for those who enjoy the work of Rita Mae Brown.
Laurien Berenson’s A Pedigree to Die For (1996)
Definitely one of the more famous and popular series in this genre–cats greatly outnumber dogs in the pet cozy world–the enjoyable Melanie Travis books have been going strong for over 20 years. In this first book in the series, Berenson introduces her protagonist, a teacher who gets drawn into a mystery in the dog breeding world. If the idea of animals being actual investigators bothers you, this might be a better option than many other pet mysteries since it focuses on a human detective who works in a pet industry, and Berenson does a good job of providing details that make that industry setting believable and interesting.
Recommended for those who enjoy Susan Conant and Judi McCoy.
If you prefer cats:
Lilian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who Could Read Backwards (1966)
The Cat Who series is one of the first in this genre and also remains one of the most popular. This first entry in the series might strike some readers as a bit dated, but it introduces readers to engaging characters, including protagonist Jim Qwilleran. At the start of the series, Qwilleran is a former crime reporter who is now covering the art world and Koko is a Siamese cat he meets. Koko is an active part of solving the mystery, setting the standard for this long-running series.
Recommended for those who enjoy Rita Mae Brown, MC. Beaton, and Nancy Atherton.
Laurie Cass’s Lending a Paw (2013)
I suspect one thing that makes this genre seem a bit daunting for someone new to it is the sheer size of some of the series. I had a hard time finding stand-alones in this genre because their very nature lends themselves to serialization. I know some readers are really excited to know that they’ll have 20 or 30 books to look forward to in a series, but some do not. (I am one of those readers. It’s rare for anything to hold my attention that long, so that’s usually an automatic turn-off for me when considering a series.)
If you too don’t want to commit to a series already in the double digits, you might find Laurie Cass’s cross-genre pet cozy series much more accessible. As of right now, there are only five books in the series. This cute, endearing series focusing on a bookmobile librarian and the stray cat that adopts her in small-town Michigan. Initially, their adventures are limited to those of the bookmobile variety, but they soon find a body, and it will take the both of them together to crack the case.
Recommended for those who enjoyed Sofie Kelly.
If you enjoy both cats and dogs:
Rita Mae Brown’s Rest in Pieces (1993)
Okay so there is a cat on the cover, but these books feature both a cat and a dog, so they’re twice the fun. The two pets–a tiger cat and a Welsh corgi–belong to the local postmistress, who always finds herself wrapped up in a mystery. This series is a bit edgier than most other pet mysteries, and there’s also a dash of romance. Unlike some other books where the pets are fairly incidental to the action, here they are more actively involved in the investigation.
Recommended for those who enjoy Susan Wittig Albert, M.C. Beaton, and Lilian Jackson Braun.
If You Love Birds:
Susan Plunkett’s Whispers Through the Trees (2005)
It’s in the trees! It’s coming!
With apologies to Kate Bush, I had to get that out of my system, though this book and series have absolutely nothing to do with her. It’s pretty unusual in the pet cozy genre to find books that are not about cats and/or dogs. People just don’t apparently want to read pet cozies that star geckos or goldfish.
This series is one of the exceptions in that it focuses on birds. It is actually written by multiple authors, with each book having a different author. It’s a Christian mystery series about a bird specialist named Abby Stanton. She lives on an island off the coast of Washington State and in between doing bird expert things, she also solves mysteries.
This first entry in the series covers her move to the San Juan Island and her involvement in a mystery regarding one of the area’s leading families. Some mystery fans may be disappointed because the books don’t always deal exclusively with mysteries–there’s a fair amount of Stanton’s personal and professional life thrown in, but if you’re just wanting to sample the genre and aren’t interested in the more typical dog and cat varieties of this genre, consider giving this one a try.
Recommended for those who enjoy Sandra Orchard’s work.
If you’re interested in any of the books or series mentioned above, just follow this link to our online library catalog.
Are you an animal person? Do you like to read pet mysteries? Which do you think make better detectives – cats or dogs or birds? Tell us in the comments!