can·tan·ker·ous, adj.; ill-tempered and quarrelsome; disagreeable, irascible; difficult to handle
In Murder Strikes a Pose by Tracey Weber, Kate runs a yoga studio in Seattle. Michael runs a pet shop nearby. George is a vagrant who peddles papers in front of Kate’s shop, and Bella is George’s oversized and overcharged German shepherd. When George is found dead, and Bella becomes Kate’s responsibility, the fast paced plot goes into overdrive as Kate tries to solve the case, falls in and out of love with Michael, and tries to avoid the wrath of the Seattle police who aren’t doing much about George’s death. It was murder, says Kate, but the police disagree and order her to stay out of it. And all the while Bella needs both medical help and serious training to restrain some of her anti-social behavior. She’s downright dangerous around some people and other dogs.
That’s a glimpse into this mystery of intrigue and love, strong wills and affection, with lovable big Bella smack in the middle of it with petite Kate holding tightly to her leash. At one point in the story Kate calls her sleuthing activities ‘The Case of the Cantankerous Canine’, but truth be known, Kate is just as cantankerous as Bella.
In this debut novel, author Tracy Weber (a yoga instructor in real life) does a masterful job of building a long list of believable characters, one of whom (she’s convinced) killed George. Why? Read the book, where all is revealed in the end.
For a taste of Weber’s delightful and at time very funny prose, here’s a well crafted dog-centered scene from inside Michael’s pet shop. If you’ve ever owned a large, rambunctious dog, you’ll appreciate this. The scene opens with Kate bringing Bella into the pet shop on a leash, where Bella suddenly becomes hugely upset at someone she sees, and launches herself in a fury down an aisle lined with dog food and cat litter displays towards the object of her distaste. Kate tells what happened next:
I held on to Bella’s leash as tightly as I could, but to no avail. It was like trying to restrain a canine freight train.
Bella dove through a stack of wet dog food, scattering cans in every direction. Distracted by the noise, she veered left and knocked over a display of sale-priced cat litter, ripping open several bags in the process. I slid on the pelletized pine and grabbed a shelf for balance, only to pull down a box of individually priced dog cookies. Broken cookies littered the ground in a six-foot radius. By the time I got Bella under control again, one thing was abundantly clear: Hurricane Bella had been a Category Five.
. . .”Get your crazy dog out of here! Lord, I hate that thing!” [Bella’s cowering target yells.]
If you like dog centered mystery stories, you’ll enjoy Murder Strikes a Pose. After reading this action-packed first novel, all I can say to Tracy Weber is: Please let us know when your next novel is coming out so we can get in line to buy it at the neighborhood bookstore (or online, where it is also available). We’ll expect another great read!
Murder Strikes a Pose: A Downward Dog Mystery, by Tracy Weber (Woodbury, Minnesota: Midnight Ink, 2014; 274pp., paperback. ISBN 978.0.7387.3968.7).