“Do we need this cat?” My editor wrote in the margin after reviewing my second manuscript. My initial reaction was the same as if he’d suggested I euthanize the 19-year-old cat our family had raised from a kitten. I grieved as though the kitten were real.

That’s the dream and the job for a writer: creating characters so real that you forget they don’t exist. In Address to Die For, it happens often with the animals, all of whom real aspects of the human characters that might otherwise remain hidden.

Belle, the McDonald family’s golden retriever, believes she is the series’ main character. Her boundless enthusiasm buoys Professional Organizer Maggie when her spirits are flagging. Belle’s insistence on frequent walks give Maggie an excuse to investigate in places they both might not venture alone. Maggie confides in Belle and Belle’s barking often signals danger moments before Maggie realizes how much trouble she may be in.

Munchkin, the mastiff sidekick of Maggie’s friend Stephen Laird, opens the door to the friendship between Maggie and Stephen and allows Stephen to share a portion of his mysterious past as he tells the story of the dog’s ill-fitting name.

Mackie, the West Highland White Terrier belonging to Elaine Cumberfield, reveals the lighter side of Elaine whose background as a middle school principal sometimes overpowers her gentler fairy-godmother demeanor.

Mozart, one of my favorite animal characters, is a German Shepherd with a walk-on role in Address to Die For, but he’ll come into his own later in the series. Mozart is a retired Marine trained by Stephen as a companion for Maggie’s friend Tess Olmos and her son Teddy. Bilingual, Mozart responds to commands in German and in English. He’s one of Belle’s best friends.

Are the animals real? To me they are. They are loosely based on real-life dogs but are also uniquely themselves and often surprise me. Their intuitive nature provides clues to plot and characterization and their comedic timing provides a welcome break when intensity builds. As I told my editor in the case of the kitten, it’s often more important to strengthen them than to consider cutting them from the stories.

If you go for walks with biscuits in your pockets for the dogs you meet, or if animals are an important part of your family life, you’ll feel right at home with Maggie in Orchard View and set Belle’s tail wagging every time you visit.

 

For professional organizer Maggie McDonald, moving her family into a new home should be the perfect organizational challenge. But murder was definitely not on the to-do list . . .

Maggie McDonald has a penchant for order that isn’t confined to her clients’ closets, kitchens, and sock drawers. As she lays out her plan to transfer her family to the hundred-year-old house her husband, Max, has inherited in the hills above Silicon Valley, she has every expectation for their new life to fall neatly into place. But as the family bounces up the driveway of their new home, she’s shocked to discover the house’s dilapidated condition. When her husband finds the caretaker face-down in their new basement, it’s the detectives who end up moving in. What a mess! While the investigation unravels and the family camps out in a barn, a killer remains at large—exactly the sort of loose end Maggie can’t help but clean up . . .

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