Book Review: Burning Ridge by Margaret Mizushima

Burning Ridge
A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #4
Margaret Mizushima
Crooked Lane Books, September 2018
ISBN 978-1-68331-778-4
Hardcover

Mattie Cobb is a Deputy Sheriff in Timber Creek, Colorado, with a special talent. She’s a highly accomplished K9 officer. With her faithful Shepherd, Robo, she’s trained and refined both her own and the dog’s capabilities to a very high level. The pair provides a rich vein of activity, characterization and plot movement. She’s of mixed ethnic heritage and though she spent early years in a troubled household, her grasp of right and wrong are strong. Timber Creek lies in the Redstone Ridge area, an immensely beautiful vista of rugged mountain, plains and streams, much of it covered with dense forest.

When she and a close friend find a partially burned body with signs of restraint and possible torture, Mattie begins a search that develops into a strange journey for her involving family, her law enforcement community and her future emotional life. The plot is intricate, the setting excellent and the tension rises on a continuum that almost compels readers to continue turning pages, exactly what every thriller author strives to accomplish.

As the story progresses, more and more intriguing, carefully delineated, characters are introduced. And, as Mattie and Robo draw ever closer to the answers she finds her family somehow entangled, as well. There are several violent scenes and a forest fire, all of which serves the story well. If there is any flaw here it is in the unwinding of some of the puzzling aspects of the plot. That takes somewhat more time than one would like but it is a small price to pay for an enthralling thriller of a crime novel peopled with varied and interesting characters.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2018.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: Pre-Meditated Murder by Tracy Weber

Pre-Meditated Murder
A Downward Dog Mystery #5
Tracy Weber
Midnight Ink, January 2018
ISBN: 978-0-7387-5068-2
Trade Paperback

Kate Davidson and her trusty canine companion Bella return in Pre-Meditated Murder. As the book opens, Kate and her boyfriend are celebrating Kate’s birthday at the fancy restaurant atop the Seattle Space Needle. SkyCity was the perfect place for what Kate assumed was going to be a moment of her lifetime. After avoiding any thought of “commitment, marriage or children,” Kate is ready.  She is sure tonight is the night that Michael is going to pop the big question and Kate is ready to say yes. In fact, she can hardly wait to say yes. They are at the restaurant, he pulls out her gift, she opens it and-it’s a necklace. Stunned for sure, but her evening is going to get much worse.

Michael professes his love for Kate, but then proceeds to tell her that he can’t marry her, at least not yet because there is this little detail he has failed to mention before. He is already married, wants a divorce but Gabriella won’t budge without a big pay out.

Kate and Michael decide to go to Oregon to try to talk Gabriella into giving Michael the divorce. I was right with the book up until this point but then  things get a little strange even for a “cozy” mystery series. They take Bella with them, BUT, here is where it goes a little wonky for me. Kate’s best friend Rene, her husband, their twins and their dogs also make the trip. Really?

Skipping ahead and overlooking that fact that entirely too many people have made the trip, Kate and Michael meet with Gabriella and the meeting goes poorly. The next day, things take an even worse turn when Kate and Bella are out for a walk and Bella digs up Gabriella’s body. Things get worse still when the police turn up at Michael’s sister’s house and Michael has no alibi for the time of the death.  Obviously Michael is suspect number one on the police’s list. In keeping with the cozy mystery genre, Kate then  jumps in to solve the crime and clear Michael. What Kate uncovers surprises her and changes how she thinks of Michael.

From there the book takes a few interesting twists which might well push it off the “cozy” shelf for subject matter.

The book gives readers a chance to learn more of Michael’s background while certainly wondering what is next for Kate and Michael.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Caryn St. Clair, January 2018.

Book Review: A Fatal Twist by Tracy Weber—and a Giveaway!

A Fatal Twist
A Downward Dog Mystery #4
Tracy Weber
Midnight Ink, January 2017
ISBN 978-0-7387-4878-9
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Yoga instructor Kate Davidson’s life takes a chaotic turn once she agrees to not only be the doula for her pregnant best friend, but also play foster mother to two puppies. The chaos only gets worse when Kate finds the dead body of a philandering fertility doctor and Rachel, one of her yoga students, fleeing the scene.

Kate is convinced her student is innocent, and she sets out to find the real killer before her testimony condemns Rachel to a life behind bars. But her hands are full with caring for three dogs, teaching yoga classes, and gaining an unexpected crime-solving partner. If she’s not careful, Kate’s next yoga pose may be a fatal one.

Babies! They’re springing up everywhere, both humans and puppies, and Kate has her hands full learning to be a doula for her best friend, Rene, as she and her husband Sam await twins. In the meantime, Kate’s boyfriend, Michael, has brought home a pair of six-week-old abandoned labradoodles, Mutt and Jeff, and Kate agrees to foster them for a short while as long as Bella, her anxious German Shepherd with special needs, doesn’t get a chance to kill them.

First to get killed, though, is a doctor Kate knows superficially, a man who appears to have been as low as a man can be. His wife is a student of Kate’s and the killing happened in a birthing center where Rene plans to go so Kate has reasons to snoop among a plethora of girlfriends (current and ex), nurses and other doctors, not to mention prospective parents who might have had reasons to hate the fertility doc. She really needs to step in because all clues seem to nail the wife, Rachel, and the police don’t want to look further.

With each murder Kate encounters, she becomes more adept at investigating and at least one of the homicide detectives doesn’t really object so much because Kate frequently has something useful to offer. Humor abounds as does a cracking good sleuthfest, not to mention reminders of the perils of puppiedom and the joys and heartbreaks of animal rescue. Tracy Weber never lets me down.

This time, Rene would have been justified—and I would have approved—if she killed Sam who’s incredibly obnoxious and obsessed with what Rene eats. On the positive side, Bella and the puppies are delightful and I’m more enchanted with her than I was before, especially since she reminds me of my beloved granddog who also suffers from social anxiety around people and other dogs. All the characters I’ve come to enjoy are back, even the somewhat annoying ones, and I felt right at home with old friends.

On a personal note, I’ve been taking warm water Yogilates classes and have become more interested in the ins and outs of yoga. I actually paid more attention this time to Ms. Weber‘s pointers and got more out of it; I won’t say I’m ready for land yoga but I love the water kind and can’t help thinking how my instructors compare to Kate (other than running around looking for killers). I just need to figure out how to listen to these books on my iPod when I’m in the pool 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2017.

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To enter the drawing for a gently
used advance
reading copy of
A Fatal Twist
by Tracy Weber,
leave a comment
below. The
winning name will
be drawn
Thursday evening,
April 13th.
This drawing is open
to residents
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Book Review: Karma’s a Killer by Tracy Weber—and a Giveaway!

Karma's a KillerKarma’s a Killer
A Downward Dog Mystery #3
Tracy Weber
Midnight Ink,
ISBN 978-0-7387-4210-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

When Seattle yoga teacher Kate Davidson agrees to teach doga (yoga for dogs) at a fundraiser for a local animal shelter, she believes the only damage will be to her reputation. But a few downward-facing dogs are the least of Kate’s problems when an animal rights protest at the event leads to a suspicious fire and a drowning.

The police arrest Dharma, a woman claiming to be Kate’s estranged mother, and charge her with murder. To prove Dharma’s innocence, Kate, her boyfriend Michael, and her German shepherd sidekick Bella dive deeply into the worlds of animal activism and organizational politics. As they investigate the dangerous obsessions that drive these groups, Kate and her sleuthing team discover that when it comes to murder, there’s no place like hOMe.

It’s always nice to return to a series you’ve enjoyed before, isn’t it? That’s how I feel about Tracy Weber‘s books and visiting with Kate, Bella and Mike has once again given me a few hours of real pleasure.

The idea of holding a yoga class for dogs in a festival-like environment could be a good one but, of course, that would make life too easy for Kate. As it turns out, her misgivings are completely justified when a bunny shows up and chaos ensues but it’s the discovery of a body that really puts a damper on things. Kate can’t help being in the middle of it all since she witnessed an earlier argument but she’s truly unprepared for the personal surprise that’s coming her way, tying her even more closely to the crime. This time, she really does have a vested interest in solving the murder and the consequences will be devastating if she doesn’t clear the obvious suspect.

Ms. Weber crafts a fine cozy mystery but she goes a step further by including a topic that can be very controversial. Members of an animal rights organization much like PETA carry out a protest during the fundraiser and their behavior is both obnoxious and, to a certain extent, sympathetic. None of us want bad things to happen to animals but, in Karma’s a Killer, the reader has the opportunity to think about both sides of the issue. Even Bella becomes involved, being seen as a victim of abuse and neglect because of a misunderstanding.

Kate’s past and her reluctance to talk about it with her boyfriend, Mike, or her best friend, Rene, come to the fore in this series entry and she learns a lot about herself and her childhood. What she does with this will be crucial to her own wellbeing and possibly to her future with Mike. On the other hand, Kate might have a bigger problem with a pigeon named Mister Feathers 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2016.

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To enter the drawing for an advance
reading copy of Karma’s a Killer
by Tracy Weber, leave a comment
below. The winning name will
be drawn Monday evening,
January 18th. This drawing is open
to residents of the US and Canada.

Book Reviews: A Killer Retreat by Tracy Weber and Vendetta by Catherine Doyle

A Killer RetreatA Killer Retreat
A Downward Dog Mystery #2
Tracy Weber
Midnight Ink, January 2015
ISBN 978-0-7387-4209-0
Trade Paperback

We forgive the faults of those we love, a theme throughout this humorous amateur sleuth mystery, becomes clear as the cast of characters evolve through a ton of conflicts. The murderer could be any one of a number of them.

Kate, a Seattle yoga instructor, is invited to teach classes at a Canadian vegan retreat for a week. Her students will be guests of the owners, a couple about to be married. Kate’s German Shepard with an autoimmune disease requiring a disgusting special diet, her wants-to-get-too-close boyfriend, and her secretive best friend and husband join her at the beautiful, secluded site. From the start, incredible clashes and mishaps plague the trip. The one-hundred-pound dog drags Kate through mud, rain, and animal doo, among other places, and into a fight with the owner of a yappy terrier. Kate forgives the dog all. He is her main squeeze and the one she rushes to be with when excuse time comes.

It’s Kate’s hot temper and smart tongue, though, that make her the primary suspect for the murder of the unruly terrier owner, a woman everyone dislikes. It’s the kind of behavior Kate displays over and over in the story. (And it might be a little beyond this reviewer’s ability to suspend disbelief about a boyfriend who would put up so long with the way she treats him. It’s  a lot even for a loved one.)

If you enjoy nonstop action, funny lines, tons of suspects, and a surprise twist during the revelation of the murderer, you’ll like this story. There are references to the first book in the series, but A Killer Retreat works as a stand-alone.

Reviewed by Joyce Ann Brown, October 2015.
http://www.joyceannbrown.com
Author of cozy mysteries: Catastrophic Connections and Furtive Investigation, the first two Psycho Cat and the Landlady Mysteries.

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VendettaVendetta
Catherine Doyle
Chicken House, March 2015
ISBN 978-0-545-69982-2
Hardcover

Combining enthralling elements from Greek mythology to the mafia, including a mysterious abandoned mansion haunted by a WWII ghost story, while touching on friendship, loyalty, roofies and perspective along the way seems a daunting, laborious chore….that probably won’t end with something super-fun to read. And yet, Ms. Doyle tossed all of these captivating, compelling themes into a hat, waved a magic wand and viola! Vendetta!

I love this book so very much, that writing this review has been a bit of a challenge. So, instead of fighting my urge to chatter excitedly like a ten-year-old-boy that hit his first out-of-the-park home-run, I’m just going to have to gush.

Weaving a bit of the story around the name Persephone pleased me immensely. Enough of the Greek myth seeped through for subtle suggestions, yet Sophie’s story is completely her own. Perfectly paced unraveling of back-story made this a page-turner….so much so that I wished I had blocked out time to read it straight from cover to cover.

Sophie’s foundation has been rocked by the removal of her father from the family home. With walls crumbling all around her, watching her mom silently shrink into herself, rumors swirling and only one friend left, this chick should be jaded, pissed and out for vengeance. She is no ordinary almost-seventeen year old. She has a super-power: her determinedly stubborn faith in mankind. Sophie’s genuine and utmost conviction that, basically people are good, and absolutely everyone should behave well in society, is so strong, unyielding and uncontrollable that Sophie absolutely, always speaks her mind. Written any other way, this character could seem confrontational….a disingenuous bitch. Ms. Doyle reveals Sophie’s heart and soul with crystal clarity, making her the scrappy underdog that the reader just has to cheer for.

Sophie fights….furiously. Not for herself, but for her mom…who’s barely holding it together now, and for Millie, the one friend that stuck by Sophie when no one else would. For those two people, solely so that they weren’t faced with losing absolutely everything….Sophie would fight.

When five brothers move into the aforementioned abandoned dwelling, Sophie’s vehement dislike of Luca, the very person that seems to strike fear in all other living beings, along with her willingness to call him out and remind him that she “has no respect for his authority” is such a fun and honest twist. It is a groovy way to remind the reader of Sophie’s toughness and determinedness for that which is good and right, while providing a bit of comic relief and a sneaky glimpse that Luca may have a soul after all.

Vendetta is packed with fabulous dialogue; colorfully complete and embraceable characters and a simply beautiful story. I’ll happily recommend this to most readers, Middle Grade and beyond and I’ll most certainly grab anything and everything I can find that Ms. Doyle has written.

Reviewed by jv poore, August 2015.

Book Review: Murder Strikes a Pose by Tracy Weber—and a Giveaway!

Murder Strikes a PoseMurder Strikes a Pose
A Downward Dog Mystery
Tracy Weber
Midnight Ink, January 2014
ISBN 978-0-7387-3968-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

When George and Bella—a homeless alcoholic and his intimidating German shepherd—disturb the peace outside her studio, yoga instructor Kate Davidson’s Zen-like calm is stretched to the breaking point. Kate tries to get rid of them before Bella scares the yoga pants off her students. Instead, the three form an unlikely friendship.

One night Kate finds George’s body behind her studio. The police dismiss his murder as a drug-related street crime, but she knows George wasn’t a dealer. So Kate starts digging into George’s past while also looking for someone to adopt Bella before she’s sent to the big dog park in the sky. With the murderer nipping at her heels, Kate has to work fast or her next Corpse Pose may be for real.

I don’t read a lot of cozy mysteries these days—not because I don’t like them but because the edgier stuff tends to appeal to me more (a cycle that I’m sure will change as it does from time to time)—but, every now and then, I feel the need. It’s sort of like occasionally indulging my craving for peppermint patties rather than being on a continual sugar high. The timing of my stop on this blog tour was perfect because I was in the mood for it and I really wanted to check out Tracy Weber’s first book.

This mystery suffers from two failings that are quite common in cozies—there is the seemingly requisite TSTL scene and the amateur sleuth is 100% convinced she can do a better job investigating than the professional detectives; to me, that makes her occasionally very annoying. I was especially irked by a scene in which Kate thinks Detective Martinez is gullible because she actually believes several alibis after having verified them and then Kate accuses her of being apathetic with absolutely no reason. In short, Kate can sometimes be so arrogant and full of self-pity that I would momentarily lose any rapport I had with her.

Fortunately, there are just a few of those episodes and Kate is usually likeable and involved in snooping for admirable reasons. I especially appreciated her dedication to doing what’s right for Bella, a dog who is in dire need of help, but also her willingness to re-think her own pre-conceived notions when it’s called for. On the other hand, the men in this story surprised me because every single one is overbearing or worse at one time or another. Still, Michael makes quite the nice romantic lead in spite of having the “manly man” attitude once or twice. Kate’s girlfriend, Rene, is a terrific buddy and made me envious with her ability to eat and eat and eat with no apparent consequences.

At this stage, you might think I didn’t really like Murder Strikes a Pose but that truly isn’t the case.  There are some uncomfortable scenes, some involving the plight of the homeless but even more focused on Bella. Animal lovers may—no, will—cringe sometimes but I urge you to persevere; Ms. Weber has points to make that matter, not least of which is the idea that we simply must do what we can to take care of the four-footed creatures who need us and only want to be part of our lives. Sometimes, that obligation comes about because of the evil that people can do and I applaud the author for not being afraid to show that evil.  It’s this sort of thing—mingling life lessons in with a good mystery—that lifts this cozy above many others. When all is said and done, putting annoyances aside, I enjoyed this series debut and will be looking forward to Kate’s next adventure, Killer Retreat, in January.

Oh, and I learned quite a bit about yoga 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2014.

An Excerpt from Murder Strikes a Pose

I laid my body on the cool wood floor, covered up with a blanket, and prepared to die.

Metaphorically, that is.

Corpse Pose’s ten-minute rest always soothed my stressed-out nerves, and for once I didn’t feel guilty about the indulgence. My to-do list was blank, Serenity Yoga’s phone was silent, and I had a whole blissful hour between clients to do my favorite activity: practice yoga.

Even my eclectic Greenwood neighborhood seemed uncharacteristically quiet, lulled by Seattle’s rare afternoon sun. The residents of the apartments above the yoga studio were off at their day jobs; the alcohol-addicted patrons of the block’s two dive bars slept off their Jim Beam breakfasts; the soccer moms shopping at next door’s upscale PhinneyWood Market purchased the day’s supplies in unusual silence.

I wiggled my toes under a Mexican blanket, covered my eyes with a blue satin eye pillow, and inhaled deeply. The ooey-gooey smell of Mocha Mia’s chocolate caramel cake wafted from across the street and filled my nostrils with sweet toffee-scented bliss—my all-time favorite aromatherapy.

Paradise. Simply paradise.

I released my weight into the earth and silently coached myself, exactly as I would one of my students. OK, Kate. Feel your body relax. Notice the random fluctuations of your mind and—

A vicious snarl ripped through the silence, startling me out of my catnap. I sat straight up, eye pillow falling to the floor with an undignified thump.

What the heck?

When had a dog fighting ring moved into the neighborhood?

A dog fight was the only plausible explanation for the commotion outside. Bursts of deep, frantic barking were followed by high-pitched yelping, all punctuated by the peace-shattering sounds of angry yelling. The phrases I could make out confirmed my suspicions. This had to be a dog fight, albeit one-sided.

“Control your dog!”

“Get that vicious beast out of here!”

And even a simple, “What the hell?”

I closed the door between the yoga room and the studio’s lobby, hoping to block out the intrusive sounds. Snarls, shouts, and an occasional ear-piercing shriek continued to reverberate right through the wall.

Undaunted, I imagined that the sounds were merely clouds floating across my mental horizon. Most of those clouds were dark and ominous, like the deep thunderclouds preceding a hailstorm. But every so often I heard a soft voice, more like the fluffy clouds of childhood summers. I couldn’t quite make out his words, but I could tell that the speaker was a man. From his tone, I assumed he was trying to calm beasts both human and animal.

It wasn’t working.

Neither, for that matter, was my attempted meditation.

I’d obviously have to shift tactics.

I tried drowning out the clamor with low, soft chanting. Then I increased the volume. But even as I belted out Om Santi, my favorite mantra for peace, I felt my jaw start to tighten. My fingernails bit deeply into my palms. My shoulders crept up to my ears.

An entirely different mantra began pounding through my head: Don’t get me angry; you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

A series of yelps and the words “I’m calling the cops!” zapped me like a cattle prod. I leapt from my mat and stormed across the floor, determined to put a stop to that infernal racket. I hurled open the door and came face-to-face, or rather face-to-snout, with the source of the commotion. Not more than five feet away from the studio’s entrance stood a paunchy, dark-haired man and the biggest, skinniest, meanest-looking German shepherd I had ever seen. Don’t get me wrong. I like dogs. I love them, in fact. It’s their human counterparts I could sometimes do without. But this frothing breast was no Rin Tin Tin. A long line of drool oozed from its mouth. Its sharp white teeth glinted in the sunlight, and its black wiry topcoat still stood on end from the prior scuffle. The dog was obviously rabid. I didn’t recognize the man standing next to the frightening creature, but I did recognize his activity. He worked as a vendor for Dollars for Change, a well-regarded local newspaper that published articles about homelessness and poverty while employing those same homeless individuals as salespeople. Ordinarily I would have welcomed one of their vendors outside my business. If nothing else, supporting the paper demonstrated yoga’s principles of kindness and compassion. But this was not an ordinary circumstance. I absolutely could not allow that disgusting dog to raise a ruckus outside my studio. The prenatal class would have a fit. Suffice it to say that pregnancy hormones didn’t always leave expecting moms in the best of moods. My moms-to-be liked their yoga practice. They needed their yoga practice. And they needed to be serene while doing it. If a noisy dog fight disturbed their peaceful experience, I’d be the one getting barked at.

Thinking less than yogic thoughts, I marched up to the pair, determined to put a stop to the chaos.

“What in the world’s going on out here?”

The human half of the dastardly duo held a leash in one hand, newspapers in the other. He smiled at me and said, “Sorry about all the noise. I’m George, and this here’s Bella. What’s your name?”

“Kate Davidson, but—”

“Well, nice to meet you, Kate. I’d shake your hand, but mine are full, so Bella will have to do it instead.”

The vicious beast walked up and calmly sniffed my hand. I prayed she wasn’t about to ingest my fingers.

“Bella, say hello!”

Upon hearing her owner’s command, the giant hairy monster-dog immediately went into a perfect sit and sweetly offered me her paw. Maybe she wasn’t rabid after all. Just huge and ill-mannered.

“Don’t mind Bella,” he continued. “She’s very friendly to people. She just doesn’t like other dogs much. She’d be fine if people kept their unruly mutts to themselves, but they think if their rude dog wants to play, Bella has to as well.” He shook his head in disgust. “I don’t understand some people!”

I tried to interrupt, to tell him that his dog was the problem, but he didn’t give me the chance.

“Bella and I are new to this neighborhood, and we’re supposed to sell papers near the market. I tried setting up by the north entrance, but there’s a pet store at that end. Pete’s Pets, I think it’s called? The owner was a nice enough guy and all, but selling there was a disaster with all those dogs going in and out. Bella wasn’t happy at all.” He shrugged. “So I guess we’re going to have to hang out here instead.”

I bit the inside of my lip and considered my options. Up close, George wasn’t exactly the paragon of health I wanted standing outside my business. His friendly smile exposed yellowed teeth in need of significant dental care, and if the sharp, ammonia-like smell was any indication, neither he nor Bella had taken a bath in quite some time. At three-thirty in the afternoon, I could smell whiskey on his breath, and I suspected this most recent drink hadn’t been his first of the day. It would also likely be far from his last. I only knew one thing for certain: if George didn’t frighten my students away, his loud, intimidating, fur-covered companion would.

I needed them to leave, but honestly, I didn’t want to say it out loud. After all, I taught yoga for a living. People expected me to be calm and collected at all times. I wasn’t allowed to be mean, or even irritated, for that matter. I hesitated as I tried to come up with the perfect words to make him want to move, if not out of the neighborhood, then at least across the street.

Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), one of my favorite students picked that very moment to walk up with her five-month-old Lab pup, Coalie. “Hey, Kate!” she said. “I hoped I’d run into you! Do you still have space in your Core Strength class tonight?” Coalie was as rude and friendly as Labs everywhere. She couldn’t stop herself if she tried. She ran up to Bella, wiggling her entire body with glee, and covered Bella’s muzzle in sloppy wet puppy kisses.

Bella wasted no time. Faster than a 747 and stronger than a freight train, Bella pinned Coalie to the ground between her front legs, snarling and air-snapping on either side of Coalie’s neck. I heard the sound of canine teeth chomping together and imagined soft puppy bones shattering between them. My student screamed. Coalie yelped. George grabbed Bella’s collar while I reached in between razor-sharp teeth to pull Coalie from the jaws of death. The three of us wrestled the two dogs apart, but not before my student almost died of heart failure.

“What’s wrong with you?” she yelled. “Keep that vicious monster away from my baby!”

George quickly apologized, but said, “No damage done. Bella was just teaching that pup some manners.” He pointed at Coalie. “See, it’s all good!”

Coalie, oblivious with joy, seemed unscathed and ready to dive in again. Tail wagging and butt wiggling, she pulled with all her might, trying desperately to get back to Bella.

Bella had other plans. She sat next to George, glaring directly at that pup with a patented Clint Eastwood stare. Go ahead, she seemed to say. Make my day. My soon-to-be-former student ran off as quickly as her legs would move, dragging the still-happy puppy behind her.

“See you in class tonight!” I yelled to her rapidly retreating back. I doubted I’d be seeing her any time soon.

Yoga reputation be damned. I had to get rid of this guy.

I put my hands on my hips and stood nice and tall, taking full advantage of my five-foot-three-inch frame. “Look. I can’t let you stay here with the dog. She’s obviously frightening people. You have to leave.” I paused a moment for emphasis, then added, “Now.”

George stood a little taller, too. “Look yourself, lady. The last time I checked, I’m standing on city property. I have every right to be here. You don’t own this sidewalk, and you can’t stop me from making a living on it.” He glared at me, sharp eyes unblinking. “We Dollars for Change vendors are licensed, and no matter how much you don’t like us, the city says we can be here.”

“There’s no ‘us’ I don’t like,” I replied, frustrated. “It’s your dog. And you may have every right to be here, but the dog is another story. What do you think Animal Control will do if I report a vicious dog attacking people outside my store?”

George stepped back, pulling Bella closer. Seattle had the toughest dangerous dog laws in the nation. We both knew what would happen if I made that call. “You wouldn’t do that!” he said. “Bella’s never hurt anyone.”

I planted my feet stubbornly. “Try me.”

George gave me a wounded look and gathered his papers, shoulders slumped in depressed resignation. “OK, we’ll go. But I thought you yoga people were supposed to be kind.” He shuffled away, shaking his head and mumbling under his breath. Bella followed close by his side.

“Crap,” I muttered, watching their slow departure. “Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap.” He was right. Like all good yoga teachers, I had extensively studied yoga philosophy and tried to live by it. The teachings were clear: A yogi should respond to suffering with active compassion. And George was clearly suffering, whether he realized that fact or not.

Threatening to call the cops on George’s dog may have been active, but it wasn’t all that compassionate, to him or to Bella. I felt like a cad. My solution probably wasn’t what the teachings had in mind, but it was the best I could come up with on short notice. “Hang on there a minute!” I yelled as I ran to catch up with him. Out of breath, I said, “You’re right. I overreacted, and I’m sorry. How many papers do you have left to sell today?”

George stopped walking. When he turned to look back at me, his eyes sparkled with an unexpected hint of wry humor. “About thirty.”

The calculations weren’t difficult. I wasn’t completely broke—yet—but thirty dollars wasn’t a drop in the bucket. On the other hand, my Monday evening classes were popular, and I had to get this guy away from the front door. Mentally crossing my fingers that the toilet wouldn’t break again, I said, “Wait here. I’ll be right back.” I hurried back to the studio and grabbed thirty dollars from the cash box.

“If I buy all of your papers, will you be done for the day?”

“Yes ma’am, and that would be very kind of you.” He gave me a broad, yellow-toothed smile. “Bella and I appreciate it very much.” He took the money, left the papers, and wandered off, whistling. Bella happily trotted behind him.

“Well, that wasn’t so difficult,” I said, patting myself on the back. “I should follow the teachings more often!” I went back inside and finished my considerably shortened practice. I chose to ignore the quiet voice in my head telling me I’d just made a huge mistake.

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About the Author

Tracy WeberMy writing is an expression of the things I love best: yoga, dogs, and murder mysteries.

I’m a certified yoga teacher and the founder of Whole Life Yoga, an award-winning yoga studio in Seattle, WA. I enjoy sharing my passion for yoga and animals in any form possible.

My husband and I live with our challenging yet amazing German shepherd Tasha and our bonito flake-loving cat Maggie. When I’m not writing, I spend my time teaching yoga, walking Tasha, and sipping Blackthorn cider at my favorite local ale house.

I am a member of Sisters in Crime, The Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and the Dog Writers Association of America.

 

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Follow the tour here.

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Leave a comment below and you might win an
ebook copy of Murder Strikes a Pose by
Tracy Weber!
The winning name will be drawn
on
Sunday evening, August 10th, and the
ebook will be sent out at the end of the tour.

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