"I was born in the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts. The best friends of my childhood were pointers named Stuffy and Nonny. I had imaginary companions as well: a cat named Thirsty Melirsty Medrinkable, a family of dogs, and parents called Mommy and Daddy Suh. Thirsty and the dog family slowly faded away. The Suhs, however, perished suddenly; they ate fish guts and died. My career as a mystery writer thus began in early childhood: I invented animals, and I killed off fictional human beings.
Now, many decades later, I live just outside Boston. My husband is a clinical psychologist with a private practice in Cambridge. Our daughter, Jessica, who is also my coauthor, lives in New Hampshire with her husband and their young son. My husband and I have an Alaskan malamute, Django (pronounced "Jango") and two Chartreux cats, Kansas City (K.C.) and Shadow Celeste. The malamutes in my Holly Winter books are composites, but the cats in Scratch the Surface, Edith and Brigitte, are portraits of my own Chartreux."
Scratch the Surface...
Felicity Pride, author of a series of popular cat mysteries, has just entered the vestibule of her apartment and discovered a very dead gentleman-looking like something the cat dragged in. And indeed, snuggled against the body is a gorgeous-and contented-gray Chartreux. With a cat and a corpse on her doorstep, Felicity’s determined to solve the crime-just like her own fictional sleuth would do.
Who was he? Who killed him? Why was he left there? And publicity value could it all have? The answers could lie with Felicity’s neighbor, an avid pet-hater; or with a highbrow professor who’s collected every cat mystery ever written; or perhaps with Felicity’s own number-one rival in the field, a bestselling recluse living in the shadows of a nom de mystere. Right now, she’s just scratching the surface, but with a burly, kilt-wearing detective named Dave Valentine on her side, Felicity intends to identify both victim and killer-and sort out a case more puzzling than any she’s ever plotted on paper . . .
"Fans of Conant's Dog Lover's mysteries (Bride and Groom, etc.) will lap up the first installment of a new series, which introduces Felicity Pride, the author of a mystery series about cats . . . Yes, the setup—a cat mystery about a cat mystery writer who finds a real body—is a trifle meta. But Conant, never precious, takes the opportunity to poke gentle fun at some of the conventions of the cozy genre. Sidesplittingly funny and very clever, this book is just about purr-fect."
Gaits of Heaven...
Poor Dolfo. It wasn’t the golden Aussie huskapoo’s fault that he wasn’t housebroken. Blame it on his owners, Ted and Eumie, a New Age couple who couldn’t bring themselves to restrain a dog’s free spirit with collars, leashes, or obedience training. Leave that to Holly Winter, who’s been enlisted to do it for them. Now, she’s just one of a pack of psychiatrists, psychologists, pharmacologists, and alternative healers who medicate the dysfunctional pair, soothe their troubled children, and placate their bitter ex-spouses.
Unfortunately, Eumie’s "trauma history" gets the best of her when she succumbs to an accidental overdose of mixed meds. Her daughter, Caprice, a human stray who knows the dirty little secrets of both sides of the family, is convinced it was murder. So is Holly. But who hated-or feared-Eumie enough to have her put down? It’s up to Holly to find a killer; sort out the motives and mysteries of the shady brood, and get back to giving Dolfo the attention he deserves. . .
"Not just dog lovers should enjoy Conant's carefully crafted 17th mystery to feature the Cambridge, Mass., dog trainer and amateur sleuth, Holly Winter . . . Plenty of interesting facts about Holly's favorite breed, the Alaskan malamute, coupled with the humorous portrait of the Boston-area therapeutic community, help make this a particularly delightful cozy."
People Would Be Surprised to Learn...
My daughter and I share such a passion for food that people can’t help assuming that our family origins are French or Italian. In reality, most of our ancestors came from Scotland, home of the deep-fried Mars Bar. Although Scots are certainly fond of plunging such improbable foods as pizza and ice cream into boiling oil, the national dish of present-day Caledonia is actually thin-skinned boiling potatoes undercooked in a microwave and topped with your choice of a revolting assortment of cold garnishes, including grated orange plastic ("Orkney cheddar"), pricier grated orange plastic ("aged Orkney cheddar"), and oily brown cat-grade canned tuna.
Of course, that’s just the popular Scots food of today. My maternal grandmother, Nana, who was born in Glasgow in 1883, never deep-fried anything and never owned a microwave. Rather, she favored the traditional dish of her homeland, which was not haggis, a ghastly blood sausage, but oatmeal, aptly known to Scots as "mush." Such was Nana’s devotion to oatmeal that her goal in cooking absolutely everything was to reduce it to mush by boiling it for hours in tremendous quantities of unsalted water. Her chicken, for example, was indistinguishable from oatmeal. By her own standards, she was thus a successful cook Her only ethnic dish was spaghetti, which she boiled in unsalted water for a mere thirty minutes. Most of the time, she just drained the spaghetti and served it. Once in a while, she upended a bottle of ketchup on it, but that daringly elaborate treatment was one she reserved for special occasions. As to beverages, she was a complete teetotaler and rejected coffee in favor of tea-bag tea. To guard against the possibility that flavor might have leaked through the tea bag and contaminated the boiling water, she always added milk and sugar. With tea, she served Saltines or, rarely, graham crackers. Amazingly, Nana lived to the age of ninety-three. Incredible! Malnutrition took ninety-three years to kill her! If my daughter and I ate Nana’s wretched diet, we’d die of culinary boredom within a week. Fortunately, our cooking is French. Italian. Asian. Fusion. Greek. Portuguese. It’s anything and everything except Scottish. Never, ever do we eat mush.
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