Murder Mysteries and Animal Psychology

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Here are two very different murder mysteries in which animals play major roles, Robert Crais’ “Suspect” and “The Black Cat by Martha Grimes.  Crais and Grimes, both bestselling writers, have taken very different approaches to their animal characters.

Let me start with the one I liked.  Robert Crais has created a working dog named Maggie, a German shepherd who sniffed out explosives in Iraq and Afghanistan until she was injured in an action that also killed her handler.  She is eventually sent to the Los Angeles police force, where she is assigned to an officer who is also recovering from injuries.  The cop, who has never been a dog person and Maggie, who has lost the handler who was, to her, the pack leader, have to form a relationship if both are to have new lives.

Of course I can’t know how accurate Crais is, but he does a convincing job of putting the reader into the dog’s mind.  This obviously involves even more pitfalls than trying to understand another human, but has fascinated people at least since Konrad Lorenz published his amazing stories in “Man Meets Dog” in 1948.

Martha Grimes isn’t even trying to put herself into the minds of the various black cats and one dog in her book.  At least I hope not, since she has them conducting involved inter-species, mischief-planning dialogues by mental telepathy.  At least those conversations are slightly more interesting than the inane remarks exchanged by many of her human characters.

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