I started out with only one goal: make my Tervuren pup, Lord Byron, an AKC champion. Easier said than done. I soon learned that like any other sport, canine conformation requires training, commitment, money and time—plenty of it. In the process of trudging through the many small-town venues that host dog shows, I noted many things: the language and terminology peculiar to the show world, the daily lives of trainers, judges, handlers, and breeders, and the compelling urge to excel in an area where monetary output far exceeds gain. (Parents whose kids participate in sports will understand this all too well.) Sadly, I was also forced to lower my standards to accommodate the mostly third-class motels that accept canine clients. Ugh!
Somewhere in the process, my husband and I got wise. We hired a professional trainer and watched Lord Byron win. Slowly, inexorably he crept toward the magic 15 points required to become a champion. Then the unexpected happened. At a show in Pennsylvania Dutch country we were snowbound for a week. Boredom set in, tempers frayed (human, not dogs), and I suddenly realized that these wholesome, family venues were the perfect setting for a murder. Or two.
Thus, “Death by Dog Show” was born. I sharpened my observation of those around me, merged several characters into one, and posed that eternal question all writers ask: What if?
Lord Byron’s breeder inspired my protagonist, Persephone Morgan, although I embellished quite a bit about her life and habits. Learning about “leather-smithing” was intriguing, as was absorbing sponge-like, the casual conversations among the community of show regulars. While prowling around the vendor areas, I spied the perfect murder weapon—a pretty pink pair of 13-inch poodle shears. Those babies are really sharp! Similarly, I learned that the blade of a leather gauge can slice through most substances including human tissue like a knife through butter. The perfect tool for murder # 2.
Most of all I learned to appreciate those who happily “go to the dogs” and are staunch advocates for their breeds and all animals. I experienced an overwhelming sense of wonder at the beauty and nobility of canine competitors from the feisty little Chihuahua to the dour Scottish Deerhound.
As for Lord Byron, he is now an AKC Grand Champion and like his namesake, “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.”
Death by Dog Show by Arlene Kay is available 3/19 from Kensington Publishing.
Army vet Persephone “Perri” Morgan has big plans, as her custom leather leashes, saddles, and other pet accessories are the rage of dog and horse enthusiasts everywhere. But when murder prances into the ring at a Massachusetts dog show, Perri must confront a cunning killer who’s a breed apart.
Accompanied by her bestie Babette and four oversize canines, Perri motors down to the Big E Dog Show in high style. Perri hopes to combine business with pleasure by also spending time with sexy DC journalist Wing Pruett. Until a storm traps everyone at the exposition hall . . . and a man’s body is found in a snow-covered field, a pair of pink poodle grooming shears plunged through his heart.
Turns out the deceased was a double-dealing huckster who had plenty of enemies chomping at the bit. But as breeders and their prize pets preen and strut, the murderer strikes again. Aided by her trusty canine companions, Keats and Poe, Perri must collar a killer before she’s the next “Dead in Show” winner.
Praise for Arlene Kay’s Boston Uncommons Mysteries
“Reminiscent of the comedy-mystery movies of the thirties…An entertaining first entry into the Boston Uncommons Mystery series.” —New York Journal of Books on Swann Dive
“Highly entertaining . . . I can’t wait for the next book in the series!” —Jaye Roycraft, author of Rainscape