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The Dog Park Detectives

Murder is never just a walk in the park . . .

About The Book

Murder is never just a walk in the park . . .

When friends Louise and Irina find a dead body in the local park whilst walking their dogs, they are soon drawn into the mystery of who murdered local entrepreneur Phil Creasey.

Phil used to be a member of their dog walking community – nicknamed ‘the Pack’ – until the death of his cockapoo, and the Pack feel they owe it to Phil to investigate his death. But with Louise and Irina leading the charge, it isn’t long until they’re neck-deep in local gangs, stolen motorcycles and a disturbing string of poisonings. Have the Pack bitten off more than they can chew, or can they follow their noses and solve the crime?

The Dog Park Detectives is a joyous and fur-ociously entertaining murder mystery for fans of dogs and cosy crime, and the first in a pawfully exciting new series that is perfect for fans of Richard Osman and Robert Thorogood.

'More good dogs than I've ever seen in a single book! Oh, and a grisly, puzzling murder to solve, with lots of twists and red herrings. But really, I'm here for the pooches, and you should be too’ Antony Johnston

'Howling good fun, with a plot twisty enough to get any dogged armchair detective barking up the wrong tree. I loved it – just don't tell my cats!' Fiona Leitch

‘Adored The Dog Park Detectives! Brilliantly written, with quirky characters, dogs and a dash of murder, I ripped through this in two sittings. Perfect cosy crime’ Lisa Hall

‘A pacy and entertaining murder mystery that’s a must-read for all dog-loving crime fans. Go the Dog Park Detectives!’ A. K. Turner

‘Totally PAWSOME – I was hooked from the very first page and Mara weaves a special cosy magic throughout with rich characters and a fascinating, twisty plot. A brilliant whodunnit and all delivered with the deftest of touches. Dogs, dogs and more dogs, all with a splash of the macabre. Unputdownable!’ Jonathan Whitelaw, author of The Bingo Hall Detectives

'An absolute delight to read. Like a lovely, summery stroll in the park - specifically the dog park’ Kat Ailes, author of The Expectant Detectives

‘A fun murder mystery with plenty of leads to get tangled and clues to sniff out!’ Sarah Yarwood-Lovett

Excerpt

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Chapter 1
LOUISE
 
Partridge Bark group chat
Fiona (Nala’s Mum): Anyone want to bet who was sick first after Girls’ Night last night: Tank or Claire?
Yaz (Hercules’s Mum): A French bulldog who has a tendency to barf, or a journalist who was drinking @Irina’s cocktails? Tough one, but my money’s on Claire.
Claire (Tank’s Mum): Yeah. Yeah, it was me. I’m not going to make the recovery walk this morning. Soz.
 
Early morning sunlight stabbed my eyes. I adjusted my sunglasses and tightened my grip on Klaus’s lead. Took a deep steadying breath; Claire wasn’t the only one hungover.
     ‘You look like something Hamish might have dug up,’ Irina Ivanova called from across the street, gesturing at the black Scottish terrier at her side. With her fair hair hanging lank around her round, pale face, in sharp contrast to her designer leggings, top and trainers, Irina looked like a well-dressed zombie.
     I knew I didn’t look much better, but there wasn’t much point in getting dressed up for an early dog walk in Partridge Park. Particularly not after our monthly ladies’ night. I pushed my sunglasses further up the bridge of my nose and ushered my dachshund, Klaus, across the street. ‘Who else are we waiting for?’
      ‘No one. Although I’m not sure why you’re all blaming me, I didn’t force you to drink anything,’ Irina said, her voice sounding like Eastern European gravel.
     As sharp as her words were, there was no malice behind the usual refrain. She smiled as Hamish bypassed Klaus to greet me. Today he wore a blue bandana that read I’m not an effin’ schnauzer. It was a sore point with Irina, although I suspected that as far as Hamish was concerned, as long as you were a dog or a human, you were cool. Squirrels, geese and cats were a different story.
      ‘To be fair, from a distance . . .’
      ‘Don’t start,’ Irina grunted.
     I fought off a wave of nausea as I leaned down too fast to greet Hamish. ‘Good morning, sweetheart,’ I said, ruffling his ears. Once my world stopped spinning, I straightened and accepted a travel mug of coffee from Irina. ‘Do I need to worry about any “hair of the non-schnauzer dog” in there?’
      ‘Only if Hamish snuck something in, and Scotties don’t shed.’
     I took a healthy gulp of coffee and winced. If Hamish had snuck something in there, it might have tasted better. I blew on the lid, pretending that the coffee was just hot, instead of hot tar. ‘Jesus.’
      ‘You know what to take for the hangover,’ she said.
      ‘Yes. A couple of paracetamols, washed down with a Berocca.’ I raised the mug in a mock salute. ‘Or rocket fuel.’
     She shrugged. ‘So make your own coffee next time, I was just trying to help.’
     Hamish squatted and Irina handed me her mug, pulling a green poo bag from her pocket. ‘Enterosgel is the best thing for getting toxins safely out of your body.’ She carefully got down on one knee to clean up after her dog. ‘Don’t make that face, it doesn’t taste that bad. But if you want to keep your toxins, fine with me.’ While Irina had been raised in Moscow (something she rarely admitted to), she’d spent a few years in the Czech Republic, with a dog that won awards for scavenging. Since then, Enterosgel had become her go-to for anything gastrointestinal, either for dogs or humans.
      ‘I don’t dispute how effective it is, just how it tastes. Kind of like the love child of chalk and charcoal.’
     Irina smiled and lobbed the bag into a dog waste bin. On the front was a decal with the label ‘Poo-Tin’ below a picture of Vladimir Putin. The image was faded, but she still gave Mad Vlad a two-fingered salute as the bin clanged shut.
     Our dog park pack – ‘the Pack’ – gave it equal odds that Irina was the one who put the decal there. I’d asked her once, and received a lecture about the perils of defacing public property, with just enough sanctimony in her tone to more or less confirm it.
     Klaus edged to the side of the path and urinated on a discarded takeaway bag. Now ready to go, he emitted a loud bark to hurry us along.
      ‘Big voice for such a little sausage dog,’ a jogger said, passing us. The guy was in his mid-thirties and up far too early on a Sunday morning to have that sort of energy.
      ‘Don’t tell him that.’ I forced a smile. ‘He thinks he’s a slightly short Rottweiler.’
     The jogger laughed and disappeared round a bend in the path. We entered the park, automatically surveying the area. The litter levels weren’t too bad, and there weren’t many other people around. It was even early for most of the Pack to walk their dogs. It was low risk, so when Klaus looked up at me with liquid eyes and bounced his front paws off my shins, I gave in to his plea to be let off the lead.
      ‘Fine,’ I said, unclipping him. ‘But behave.’
     Klaus jumped on Hamish and in moments they were one pile of dark fur, rolling on the grass as Hamish tugged at Klaus’s ear while Klaus playfully took hold of Hamish’s beard. Business as usual.
     My phone buzzed twice. Swiping past the low battery warning, I glanced at the screen.
 
Partridge Bark group chat
Meg (Tyrion’s Mum): By the way, does anyone know what was happening in the park at 3:30 in the morning? Tyrion was going nuts at the balcony door.
Paul (Bark Vader and Jimmy Chew’s Dad): Same with Vader and Jim. I thought it was Ella, but she was only snoring on the sofa. I looked outside but couldn’t see anything. It took ages for them to quiet down. I cannot believe she slept through it.
 
After all the cocktails I drank last night, Klaus could have been having a rave in the living room, and I’d have slept through it.’ I replaced the almost-flat phone in my pocket and pulled out an orange-and-blue rubber ball. I threw it into the middle of the field, watching the dogs scramble after it. Hamish was faster, snatching the ball and prancing about, but Klaus was stealthy. Seconds later, he executed a ten-point ‘sausage snatch’ and, with the ball in his mouth and his ears flapping in the wind, sprinted towards us.
     Suddenly he stopped. Dropped the ball and cocked his head to the side. His hind legs moved, slowly rotating him until his nose pointed towards the long grass fenced off between the edge of the park and the road.
     Hamish looked between the ball and the long grass a couple of times. Then he started to run.
      ‘Not the long grass,’ I warned Klaus. ‘You know you’re not allowed there.’
     It was a canine minefield of discarded chicken bones, toxic litter and foxtails. You’d think those weeds wouldn’t pose any danger, but if their seeds got stuck in an ear or a paw, it meant a painful (and expensive) trip to the vet. So far, Klaus had managed to stay off that list, and I preferred to keep it that way.
     The dogs ignored us and ran towards it, their short legs pumping. Klaus’s tail pointed straight back, his back legs moving together so that from behind he almost looked like a hopping bunny, but at that moment there was nothing cute or funny about it.
     I whistled for him to return, but all I could see was his black-and-tan bottom as he sprinted away.
      ‘Hamish! Idi syuda! Come back here!’ Irina called out. ‘Three! Two! One!’ She dropped a handful of treats at her feet. But as high-value as the treats were, the dogs ignored us and kept on running into the grass.
     Something felt off; Klaus was a mama’s boy. He always came when I called. And I’d never seen another dog as food-obsessed as Hamish. Something was wrong.
     Terrified, I started to run. ‘NIKLAUS!’
     Klaus passed through the gap in the wire fence enclosing the long grass.
     The right thing to have done would have been to turn around and run in the opposite direction. Or have Irina try the 3-2-1 trick again. But instinct made me sprint faster. My breath escaped in short pants, and I grabbed a post at the entrance to the long grass, using it to catapult myself into the area where I’d last seen Klaus and Hamish. Both stood with their front paws firmly planted, barking at something that was not barking back.
     I dove forward, ignoring the weeds cutting my legs, and reached for my dog. Klaus evaded me twice before I could grab him. With one hand clamped on his collar, I lunged again, capturing Hamish and pulling him close enough to trap him between my knees. I clipped on Klaus’s lead and waited for Irina to arrive.
      ‘Was that really necessary?’ I wheezed at Klaus. My eyes streamed, and only now did I realise that I’d dropped my glasses somewhere along the way. ‘You, my love, have lost off-lead privileges. Again.’
     Klaus didn’t appear to care. He was squirming and barking at a threat I still couldn’t see.
     Irina’s shadow fell over me, and I passed Hamish back to her, watching as she yanked his mouth open and fished around the edges. ‘What have you eaten now, you freaky little scavenger?’ She threw whatever she’d taken from Hamish deeper into the grass. ‘Yuck.’
     Looking disgusted, she wiped her hands on her leggings. ‘What are they barking at?’
      ‘I don’t know. Dead rat?’
      ‘Well, they were bred to hunt rodents.’
     I didn’t dispute Klaus’s prey-drive – he went nuts when he saw a squirrel – but so far, he hadn’t come close to catching one. Thank God.
     I glared at him. ‘Will you stop howling, for Heaven’s sake? My hangover is killing me.’
     Without sympathy, he squirmed, still fixated on the long grass. I followed his gaze and felt stomach acid burn its way up my throat.
      ‘Irina,’ I choked, scrambling back and falling onto my bottom, with Klaus clutched to my chest. ‘Call 999.’
      ‘999?’ She looked up and blinked. ‘For a dead rat?’
     In a voice two octaves higher than normal, I squeaked out, ‘It’s not a dead rat.’
     Half hidden in the grass, amid poppies, cornflowers and discarded crisp bags, clouded blue eyes stared at me from a grey, dead face.
     Irina stood and followed my gaze. ‘Oh, my—’ She raised her free hand to cover her mouth as her stomach audibly rebelled.
      ‘Don’t get sick here. Forensics—’
     She staggered out of the long grass, holding Hamish in one arm, and vomited into a nearby bin. ‘God.’
      ‘I’m almost out of battery,’ I said once she stopped heaving. ‘Pull yourself together and call 999. Now.’

About The Author

Blake Mara is a pseudonym of Mara Timon, author of Second World War thrillers City of Spies and Resistance. A native New Yorker who moved to the UK about twenty years ago, when Covid hit, she went cliché and got a pandemic puppy – a miniature dachshund with a massive personality. This opened her eyes to the canine-loving community that blossomed around the local dog park, and who became the inspiration for the Dog Park Detectives. But while her dog park pack have tackled some local crimes, they haven’t found a dead body in the park . . . yet. For more information, follow her on Twitter (@TheBlakeMara), Facebook (BlakeMaraAuthor), Instagram (@Mara.Timon) or on her website, blakemara.com. 

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (May 16, 2024)
  • Length: 400 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781398524248

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