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By Basil Sands

Shelter manager and pet rescuer Lauren Vancouver once again takes on the role of amateur sleuth when there’s a murder on a film set…

Has Hollywood gone to the dogs? Pet rescuer Lauren Vancouver is observing production on a new movie called Sheba’s Story. The title character—a miniature white poodle—is played by many similar-looking poodles, and to make sure no animals are harmed, Lauren’s friend, veterinarian Carlie Stellan, and Grant, a handsome representative from the American Humane Association, are on location. But when the film’s director is killed in a suspicious hit-and-run after arguing with Carlie about animal safety, it’s up to Lauren to clear her friend’s name and catch a killer before someone else ends up in oodles of deadly trouble.

The amazing thing about the writing world is that there is something for everyone. You can read about everything from mystery, to paranormal romance, to novels about puppy dogs. And sometimes you can get all of those at the same time. And that brings us to the work of Linda O. Johnston who just happens to write about all those areas at once!

Linda, Welcome to The Big Thrill. Some of us grew up on Scooby Doo, but I have a feeling your work is more than a few leaps beyond Shaggy & Scoob. Tell us just how you came to write pet centered mysteries.

I’d been writing romances for a while and also had some mystery ideas that didn’t get anywhere… and then I realized I should write what I know about and love. That’s where my Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries originated. Kendra is a lawyer, as I am–or at least I was. She lives in the Hollywood Hills, and so do I. Her dog, Lexie, is a tricolor Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and so’s my older dog Lexie. On the other hand, I’ve never tripped over dead bodies or had to solve murders. My current series, the Pet Rescue Mysteries, is a spinoff from the Kendra series–all about Lauren Vancouver, who’s the chief administrator of a wonderful no-kill pet shelter in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley.

You don’t just write about fictional animal rescues, you are much more involved. Describe both your research and your own involvement.

I’ve been a volunteer at Pet Orphans of Southern California for a few years. I discovered the wonderful shelter when I was first researching the Pet Rescue Mysteries. I’m a dog adoption counselor there–which means I help to introduce people to their next new family member. I also help out in other ways. Pet Orphans is the shelter that’s featured in this season’s Pit Boss program on Animal Planet.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I’m not sure it was a conscious decision. I’ve always written, always wanted to write. When I was a kid in school I used to save up topics for my next essays. I became a transactional lawyer rather than a litigator partially because I enjoy writing contracts, since they’re just another form of fiction! But fiction writing is my real love, and I’m doing a lot of it these days.

I understand you’ve been a busy beagle this year. And have two books coming out in February. Tell us about them.

OODLES OF POODLES is my fourth Pet Rescue Mystery from Berkley Prime Crime. Its background is the film industry and making sure that “No Animals Were Harmed,”™ which is the registered trademark of the American Humane Association. Lauren gets involved observing the shooting of a movie about rescued poodles, and then the director is murdered. Lauren’s best friend Dr. Carlie Stellan is a suspect, so of course Lauren has to help solve the murder.

UNDERCOVER WOLF is, coincidentally, the fourth in my Alpha Force miniseries for Harlequin Nocturne. It’s a paranormal romance about a covert military unit of shape shifters. The hero Quinn is a shape shifting wolf. The heroine Kristine isn’t, but she’s an experienced aide to shape shifters. Quinn’s newlywed brother and sister-in-law, the protagonists of the prior Nocturne, GUARDIAN WOLF, have disappeared and he and Kristine go off together to find out what’s happened.

Where are your books available?

Both of my books are available in most major bookstores, although UNDERCOVER WOLF, as a Harlequin romance, will be on shelves only for a month. It’ll still be available online, of course. And both OODLES OF POODLES and UNDERCOVER WOLF are available online both in print and e-form.


Linda O. Johnston’s first published fiction appeared in ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE and won the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award for Best First Mystery Short Story of the year. Since then, Linda has published more short stories, plus 33 romance and mystery novels, including Harlequin Romantic Suspense as well as the Alpha Force paranormal romance miniseries for Harlequin Nocturne.
Linda’s Pet Rescue Mysteries, a spinoff from her Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime, feature Lauren Vancouver, a determined pet rescuer who runs a no-kill shelter. In this cozy series, “no-kill” refers to pets, not people!

To learn more about Linda, please visit her website.

Basil Sands
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