Best in Show: The Top Mysteries Featuring Canine Characters

Check out Paula Munier's favorite canine mysteries, then make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of her first Mercy and Elvis Mystery, A Borrowing of Bones!

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

—Groucho Marx

As anyone who’s ever had a dog can tell you, dogs are great characters—in life and in mysteries. In my debut mystery, A Borrowing of Bones, I write about Elvis, a handsome Malinois who served in Afghanistan as a bomb-sniffing dog until his handler got killed and he got PTSD, and Susie Bear, a Newfoundland-retriever rescue from Alabama who specializes in search-and-rescue. They team up with their humans—former M.P. Mercy Carr and Game Warden Troy Warner—to solve mysteries in the Vermont wilderness.

Four-legged characters are, I confess, my favorites. Not just write about but to read about.

Here’s a (way too short) list of mysteries with great canine characters that have inspired me and my work:

Cover for A Cat Was Involved by Spencer QuinnThe Chet and Bernie Series

By Spencer Quinn

We’re starting with my pal Peter Abrahams, aka Spencer Quinn, because his was the first series I read in which the dog played such a key role in solving the mystery. The wise and wildly entertaining Chet is a K-9 school failure (A Cat Was Involved) who teams up with hapless P.I. Bernie to solve crimes in Southern California. Chet is the brains, and Bernie, well, Bernie is the human.

Not only are these first-rate mysteries, Peter pulls off the near-impossible: writing from Chet’s point of view with an aplomb the writer in me can’t help but admire. It’s very difficult to write from the point of view of a dog or a cat and make it seem authentic and real and moving—I won’t even try—but Chet the Canine as the narrator is pitch—or should I say pooch—perfect.

In my fabulous day job as a literary agent, I always tell aspiring writers, “If you can write a story from the point of view of a dog or a cat and pull it off, I will sign you today.” And I mean it.

Fair warning: This series is a gateway drug to K-9 mysteries. I picked up my first Chet and Bernie mystery at the New England Crime Bake several years ago, and Peter signed it for me. I pulled it out on one snowy winter evening and fell in love at first bark. I proceeded to pray for snow, and this being New England, the weather gods smiled on me, and I spent the rest of that cold, white winter in front of the fire reading every single book in the series. As if that weren’t enough, once I’d finished them all, I needed more. I was not just hooked on Chet, I was hooked on crime series featuring dogs. You will be too. The good news, there are tons to choose from. Which leads me to the rest of my (woefully inadequate) list.

Cover of Open and Shut by David RosenfeltThe Andy Carpenter Series

By David Rosenfelt

I always thought that all the fuss over golden retrievers was just that: fuss. There are a lot of great dogs in the world—and they aren’t all goldens. That was my thinking. Then, I read the first book in David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter series, Open and Shut.

In it, he writes: “There is nothing like a golden retriever. I know, I know it’s a big planet with a lot of wonderful things, but golden retrievers are the absolute best. Mine is named Tara.”

And I thought: Here we go again. But by the time I finished the book, I was in love with Tara—and by extension all golden retrievers—too.

I started jonesing for a golden myself. That’s when we rescued our big shaggy black Bear, a Newfoundland-retriever mix. Our vet—who has three goldens at last count—swears that Bear is all golden in terms of personality. He is, admittedly, The Happiest Dog in the World (and the inspiration for Susie Bear in A Borrowing of Bones).

Still, I believe that there’s a golden retriever rescue—or another golden mix rescue—in my near future. I can feel it.

I can’t guarantee that reading this popular-for-a-reason series will get you your first golden. But do know that it is a distinct possibility.

Note: David and his wife started the Tara Foundation in honor of “the greatest golden retriever the world has ever known.” They’ve rescued more than 4000 dogs. Enough said.

David Rosenfelt on His Andy Carpenter Series

Timber Creek K-9 Mystery Series

By Margaret Mizushima

Margaret Mizushima is a real cowgirl who grew up herding cattle on ranches in Texas and Colorado, where she now lives with her veterinarian husband. This alone is enough to make me wild with envy.

But it gets worse: She’s also the author of the acclaimed Timber Creek K-9 Mystery police procedurals featuring Deputy Mattie Lu Cobb and her splendid K-9 partner, Robo. With the help of local veterinarian Cole Walker, Mattie and Robo solve the crimes that threaten to tear apart their beautiful and tightknit Colorado Rockies hometown.

She had me at Rockies and Robo—and her compelling heroine Mattie completes this powerful triad. Not to mention a handsome vet. Seriously. You’ll love this series.


By Robert Crais

Of course, I’d read several Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novels and was already a big Robert Crais fan. Then, a fellow #dogsandbooks lover recommended Suspect, and I fell in love with Robert Crais’s work all over again.

Suspect features Scott James, an LAPD cop whose last case left him near dead physically and emotionally, and Maggie, a bomb-sniffing German shepherd with PTSD who’s in no better shape than her new partner. They are each other’s last chance—and Crais ensures that making good on this last chance brings both dog and man to the brink and back. It’s a great read—and it sets the bar very high for those of us writing K-9 mystery.

Cover of Them Bones by Carolyn HainesThe Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery Series

By Carolyn Haines

Sarah Booth Delaney and her partner, Tinkie Bellcase Richmond, run the Delany Detective Agency, but to hear the dogs tell it, they do all the real work. The dogs are Sarah’s yodeling, 75-pound hound, Sweetie Pie, and Tinkie’s four-pound Yorkie, Chablis. Sweetie Pie and Chablis are just the noisiest glories of this swell cozy series, which features all the charm and eccentricity of the Deep South, the requisite murder and mayhem, and a resident ghost. What’s not to like?

Not only is Carolyn a fabulous writer, but she is also a fabulous human. All of the dogs and cats in the South would agree. She really walks the talk—running a small animal rescue farm (Good Fortune Farm Refuge) in addition to writing about a million books a year.

This is why I must forgive her for beating me to all of the best titles with the word “bones” in them.

Take a visual tour of Carolyn Haines’s latest, A Gift of Bones, with GIFnotes!

Sergeant Rex: The Unbreakable Bond Between a Marine and His Military Working Dog

By Mike Dowling

This is the true story of Sergeant Rex, the celebrated bomb-sniffing dog who saved so many lives in Iraq. I was inspired to write the Mercy and Elvis series by dogs like Sergeant Rex. I had the privilege and pleasure of meeting some of these dogs and their handlers at thriller writer Leo Maloney’s fundraiser for Mission K-9 Rescue, an organization devoted to rescuing and finding forever homes for these dogs. I came home and wrote the first scene of A Borrowing of Bones.

A Good Man with a Dog: A Game Warden’s 25 Years in the Maine Woods

By Roger Guay with Kate Clark Flora.

This is one of my clients’ books—a fabulous memoir about one of the first game wardens to train dogs for law enforcement in New England. Roger and his amazing dogs take you on missions from the deep woods of Maine to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. You’ll never look at working dogs in the same way again.

For those of you who are thinking, “What about cats,” I’ll leave you with a little lagniappe, a trio of swell cat mystery writers: Carolyn Haines (I told you she writes a million books a year), Clea Simon, and Rita Mae Brown.

Because, of course, there are cats in my house and in my mysteries as well. I’m thinking about getting a horse…

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of A Borrowing of Bones by Paula Munier!

To enter, make sure you’re a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

A Borrowing of Bones Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at beginning at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) September 27, 2018. Sweepstakes ends at 12:59 p.m. ET October 9, 2018. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

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  1. Joyce Benzing

    Thanks for the chance.

  2. Darla Byers

    Love books that have dogs in them.

  3. becky

    I just found a xmas present for my hubby and another one for me~!!! Great list!

  4. Patricia Crowley

    I’d love to read them!

  5. mary pirmorac

    Look forward to reading your book!

  6. Daniel M

    sounds interesting

  7. Chris Lefevre

    Sounds like a really good read!

  8. jenifer dawson

    Thank you, Paula, for all the great suggestions for future reading and the chance to win your book.
    I am a great fan of Spencer Quinn’s Chet and Bernie novels.

  9. Andy

    best of luck with your debut novel ! look forward to reading it.

  10. Shirley Evans

    Love to read books with animals in them and this one sounds like a great read. The Borrowing of Bones will be on my wish list. Thanks for the opportunity.

  11. Michael Carter

    Love dogs and a chance to win.

  12. Desmond Warzel

    Count me in, please!


    Thanks for the opportunity to win!

  14. Joy Isley

    I am a dog lover so any book with a dog on the cover or in the story I will read.
    Your book sounds really good .

  15. M. Munoz

    Thank you for the opportunity to win!

  16. Rebecca Booth

    Love dogs and cats, they always become a part of the family! I also love reading books with furbabies!’Thanks!

  17. Theresa Kulenkamp

    . . . .and lending a ligament!

  18. Carolyn

    When I was working on my Master’s degree (in archaeology), I tried to teach one of my dogs to help me locate projectile points – he wasn’t interested since he couldn’t eat them…

  19. Elena

    I have heard great things about “A borrowing of bones” and I would love to read it! Thanks for the chance =)

  20. carloshmarlo

    There can never be enough dogs, in books and in life. Thanks for the chance to win a copy of your new book!

  21. Doris Scheitler

    Love Chet and Bernie

  22. Susan T.

    I love books featuring dogs or other animals but they absolutely cannot die! That is a deal breaker for me. I worry about them through the whole story.

    • Beth T.

      That’s one reason I feel comfortable reading books in a series in which dogs are the “partner”–I feel safe they’ll make it through and not be used as a prop to induce tears, the way they often are in movies.

  23. Lori P

    I’m such a sucker for doggies. Love to see them dig up a good story.

  24. dbranigan

    Love animals and their stories. Thank you for the chance to win!

  25. Trisha McCullough

    I love books with dogs helping to solve mysteries. Thanks!

  26. Gaelicark

    These all sound great… added a few to my TBR pile!

    Kelly Braun

  27. Anne

    Dogs give me hope and this novel is a winner. Thanks.

  28. Pearl

    Mysteries with dogs are captivating.

  29. ILene Harris

    Love the cover.

  30. Jean Boe

    The dogs are special & the books sounds good.

  31. donna musche

    Love animals so i would love this book.

  32. Darlene Slocum

    Books with animals are my favorites.

  33. Karen Mikusak

    Sounds great! Would love to win.

  34. ViolinGeek

    Fantastic! Love animals (still miss my Great Dane) and mysteries/thrillers. Perfect combination!

  35. Karen Hale

    We volunteer with an awesome dog rescue so I feel like I should definitely read this.

  36. Julie Toller

    Anything with dogs

  37. Amy Donahue

    I love when fictional characters have pet helpers 🙂

  38. Joseph

    Thanks for the list! Scott and Maggie also star in The Promise by Robert Crais.

  39. Susan Wilkinson

    It sounds good, love animals in stories. Thank you.

  40. Jill K. Porco

    Love dog and cat mysteries! More goes on in their heads than we give them credit for!

  41. Jackie Wisherd

    I love reading books with animals in them…especially with dogs. I have read most of these authors books and enjoyed them.

  42. pablo101

    I love books and dogs, sounds perfect.

  43. Beth T.

    Thanks so much for this great list! As Christmas gets closer, I’m ever more “on the prowl”.

  44. Janet Gould

    Great list of books.

  45. Catherine Myers

    I have a soft spot for dogs so this one is for me.

  46. Emily Catan

    When I was a kid, I fell in love with Lassie, and I am always love four-legged (dogs & cats) stories, especially mysteries! Would love to read this “A Borrowing of Bones”! Thank you for the opportunity to win!

  47. Lori Minasyan

    I love animal mysteries — animals are so much smarter than humans 🙂

  48. Deb Philippon

    Thank you for the recommendations. It opens up possibilities for future reading. Wish me luck!

  49. Karl Stenger

    I would love to read the book.

  50. mkear

    I love the books with animals in them.

  51. Susanne Troop

    Love a good book!

  52. rebecca ward

    Animal Lover Lives Here…..and a big reader too!

  53. Dianna Young

    Love dog books!

  54. lasvegasnv


  55. Marisa Young

    Love dogs. Love books with dogs.

  56. Penni Ellington

    Dogs make everything better.

  57. Barbara Bates

    Would love to read this book!

  58. Sally Schmidt

    Great selections. Love books with dogs.

  59. Rachel Carter

    Can’t have a pupper in real life so I need fictional pooches!

  60. Karen Terry

    Love dogs sounds like a good read.

  61. Patricia Nicklas

    Thanks for the opportunity and the list of K9 books! I love Spencer Quinn’s Chet and Bernie novels

  62. Charlee Griffith

    I can’t wait to read your book!

  63. Laurent L

    It’s interesting how often dogs and their owners who are out for a walk find bodies.

  64. Susan Morris

    I like reading about dogs in mysteries and also science fiction. “Watchers” comes to mind. Would love to read your book!

  65. Linda Kish

    I love my dogs and I love reading books with dogs in the story, too.

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