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by Linda O. Johnston

Pet Rescue Mysteries: A Journey

My new Pet Rescue Mystery series debuts this month from Berkley Prime Crime.   It’s a spinoff from my Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mystery series.

Both of my protagonists told me they wanted to tell their stories in first person.  But don’t think you’re likely to confuse them.

Yes, Lauren Vancouver’s pet rescue stories are cozy mysteries, like Kendra’s pet-sitting murder adventures.  That means there’s not a lot of sex or violence, at least not on the page.  But despite the fact they both love animals, Lauren is quite different from Kendra.

Lauren runs HotRescues, a no-kill animal shelter in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley.  Kendra pet-sits and practices law.  Both run into dead humans in their stories.  That’s the nature of cozy mysteries.   In fact, in the Pet Rescue Mysteries, “no-kill” means pets, not people.

Lauren’s stories always revolve around a situation involving pet rescue.  In the first, BEAGLEMANIA, she’s there when a lot of dogs and puppies are rescued from a puppy mill.  In the second book, THE MORE THE TERRIER, which will be an October 2011 release, she learns that her former mentor has become an animal hoarder.

In real life, these can be ugly situations.  Gritty.  Filled with damaged or dead animals, those whose lives can’t be saved.  But not in the Pet Rescue Mysteries.  That’s one reason I really wanted to write these stories.   I may not be able to save them all in real life, but I can certainly do so on the page–and, where appropriate, punish the people who put them in such untenable situations.

Do the Pet Rescue Mysteries preach?  No. They’re written for their entertainment value.  Even though there’s an underlying message, the reader’s not hammered over the head with it.  It’s simply interwoven through the stories.  Lauren even faces a dilemma in THE MORE THE TERRIER.  She hates the idea of hoarding and what it’s done to animals, but she once cared a lot for her mentor.

Both series are set in the Los Angeles area, which is almost a character in the stories.   It’s also a microcosm, an example of what happens everywhere in this country.  There are a lot of animal shelters in L.A., some with physical facilities and others where the involved people are all fosterers–and sometimes both are combined.  Lots of people visit shelters, adopt dogs and cats from them.   Others are administrators, staff or volunteers at shelters.  With all those lost, abandoned and abused pets, that also means there are a lot of people in the area who put them into those positions–just as there are all over the United States and elsewhere.

Researching the Pet Rescue Mysteries has been a real eye-opener for me.  I’ve visited a lot of shelters, met a lot of people, even started volunteering at a shelter where I’m now a dog adoption counselor.  I have become the L.A. Pet Rescue Examiner for  I’ve gone on training sessions with the Small Animal Rescue Team of Los Angeles Animal Services–a unique team of dedicated animal rescuers who do everything from climbing trees to rappelling down mountainsides to finding ways into tiny spaces inside houses and other structures to save endangered animals, both pets and wild.

All of these experiences make their way into my Pet Rescue Mysteries.

But they’re also just that–mysteries.  At least one person in each of them dies in a way that’s clearly a murder.  As is often the case in cozy mysteries, Lauren is a major suspect in the first story that introduces her as a protagonist–BEAGLEMANIA.  In stories to come, there is a compelling reason for her to help solve the murders, whether she likes it or not.

And, yes, I also admit that the cozy nature of the stories involves lots of shelter pets finding new, loving forever homes.

Please come visit me at and at on Wednesdays.  Friend me on Facebook.  I’d love to hear what you think of pet rescue–and BEAGLEMANIA!

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