by Cynthia Chow
& Maggie Pill
This week we have a review of Maggie Pill’s latest book Perils, Plots, and Puppies, along with a fun pet related guest post by Maggie. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Perils, Plots, and Puppies. There is also a link to purchase it from Amazon, and from an indie bookstore where a portion of the sale goes to help support KRL
Perils, Plots, and Puppies: A Sleuth Sisters Mystery by Maggie Pill
Review by Cynthia Chow
Few know that retired Assistant DA Barbara Ann Evans has been staging “Correction Events” in the town of Allport, Michigan. Unable to bear the sight of grammatical errors public and private building signs, Barbara dresses up like a cat burglar to “tag” storefronts with corrected spellings. When she is spotted at the scene of a murder by a not-entirely-sober witness, Barb is unable to go to the police to either clear herself or provide her own testimony. Making the situation even more awkward is when she and her two sisters of their Smart Detective Agency are hired by the victim’s fiancé to find the “Grammar Nazi” whom most believe had a part in the murder. Barb is as offended by the title as the thought of being considered a killer, but investigating that angle at least keeps her out of the way of her boyfriend, Police Chief Rory Neuencamp.
Younger sister Retta Stilson emphatically insists that their client, former beauty queen Frances Habedank, is using them to fool the police and cover her own guilt. Retta may be a bit biased on that front though, as having passed fifty she is facing the harsh reality of no longer being able to rely on her looks. The way Barb sees it, Frances is just the amped-up, much younger version of Retta. Another client’s request to find a lost dog leads the Sleuth Sisters to a horrific puppy mill, where even soft-hearted middle sister Faye Burner has her faith in mankind tested.
The author of cozy mysteries under the name Peg Herring, Pill continues to develop these stellar characters into admirable, vulnerable, and always relatable mature women. Many will sympathize with Retta’s shock and anger at being considered OLD, underestimated, and overlooked. It’s a joy to see how much the only-flighty Retta has evolved since her first appearance nine books ago, especially in the eyes of her two sisters. Chapters narrated by each sister provide further insight into each of their personalities, which include their unique humor and love for one another.
Thankfully for the weak of heart, scenes of the puppy mill quickly shift towards to the extraordinary efforts of a no-kill shelter and generous volunteers. Depictions of the forgiving spirits of the abused canines will have readers visiting their nearest shelter as soon as possible, if only to help care, if not to adopt, a new furry baby. The challenge of aging in a youth-obsessed society and need for animal protection rights are perfectly weaved into this well-plotted mystery investigation. Readers will find themselves relating to at least one, if not all of the three detecting sisters. The siblings may argue and be frustrated by long past offenses, but in the end their love and loyalty conquers all. This continues to be such a fun, witty, and warm-hearted mystery series.
Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).
The Last Pet
by Maggie Pill aka Peg Herring
I grew up on a small farm in northern Michigan, so when I write the Sleuth Sisters Mysteries, memories seep in. I really did help pick stones from our fields in spring. In summer, I drove the tractor while my dad and grand-dad loaded hay bales onto the wagon. I gathered eggs from chickens who weren’t thrilled about giving them up. And I used a Mason jar to dip our breakfast beverage from a metal can while the milk was still warm from the cows that provided it.
Not Really Pets
We didn’t think of animals as pets back then. We always had a house cat and more in the barn. Though we enjoyed their company, their purpose was keeping the mice away. Our Collie had a job too, helping us fetch the cattle in from the fields. (I was the second “dog”; Lad went around one side of the herd, I went the other way, Grandpa brought up the rear, and together we drove the cows where we wanted them.)
Maggie as a child with her pets
The first animals we had purely as pets were two ornery ponies we loved like family. Later, we moved on to retired draft horses from Mackinac Island (where there are no cars). I learned that like dogs, cats, and even cows, each horse has a personality. Dolly was the size of a tractor, but she made it almost all the way into the kitchen one day before my mother shooed her out. My usual mount, Danny, was good on the out-bound part of a trail ride. He’d calmly follow the other horses to wherever we were going and wait patiently while we swam or picked berries. When we turned toward home, however, he knew he’d soon be set free, so he took off at a dead run every time. No amount of pulling on the reins or hollering made him stop until he reached the barnyard fence.
What’s a Home without A Critter or Six?
As an adult I’ve looked after many pets, from a snowy-white rabbit to a one-eared cat who loved to go hunting with my husband. My two favorite dogs were a black Lab named Pete, who could sneak up on birds and catch them in his mouth, and a little bit of bone and hair named Gertrude, seven pounds soaking wet, who believed she could win any fight, whatever the opponent. Luckily, she never had to prove it.
Though we’ve welcomed many pets into our home, we’ve decided there will be no more. We have only a cat left, an adopted stray named Trouble who is 23-1/2 years old. She travels with us, though I can’t say she enjoys it, and it’s become worrisome. She got sick a month ago, and I agonized over what I’d do if we had to put her down. (She’s better now and back to ruling the house.) Though we love Trouble, we’ve decided she will be the last. We’re on the road a lot due to my book events, and we dislike leaving pets in unfamiliar situations or imposing on friends and family to care for them. Life will be simpler if we don’t take on a new animal. At least that’s what we tell ourselves.
Not Going Cold Turkey
I will still have access to pets. My brother and sister-in-law live close, and they parent two Newfoundlands. Retta’s dog Styx is based on them. My sisters both have cats and dogs and probably always will. (Faye’s Buddy is based on a dog who learned to abide other humans but clearly considered my sister the only worthwhile one.)
It’s hard to imagine no little fur-face to greet me in the morning (sometimes earlier than I’d like), but when our old cat crosses the Rainbow Bridge, I’m going to try being a Pet Aunt, not a Pet Mom.
Can I do that after decades and decades of daily interaction with animals? We’ll see.
To enter to win a copy of Perils, Plots, and Puppies, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “perils,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 5, 2018. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways.
Use this link to purchase the book & a portion goes to help support KRL & indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy:
You can also use this link to purchase the book on Amazon. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:
Maggie Pill is the pen name of Peg Herring, who also writes mysteries. Maggie is younger and much cooler than Peg, and her sixth Sleuth Sisters Mystery, “Peril, Plots, and Puppies,” which concerns murder AND a puppy mill bust, is now available in paperback and e-book formats. Audio takes a little longer. Visit her website: or find her on Facebook.
Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases using those links. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.