They say that dogs are humans’ best friends. As a lifelong dog lover, nothing gets my attention faster if something is dog related. Well, as long as the dog is happy and healthy at the end of it all. So as a murder mystery fantatic, I am naturally interested in mysteries that involve dogs in some way. Also it just makes good sense. With their incredible sense of smell and ability to be trained, dogs and mysteries go together like peanut butter and jelly.
As I started working on this list, I realized that there’s a lot of ways that dogs show up in mysteries. Dogs can be main characters in the story in several capacities: accessory to the crime, victim, or even the narrator. There are several series that center on the world of dogs, everything from the Iditarod to pet-based businesses. And of course, there are books where dogs are lovable sidekicks who provide emotional support for the sleuth or sometimes comic relief.
So here is a list of 10 mystery books that feature dogs in some way. Many books are technically cozies because it’s what I love reading and there’s a lot of books on dogs in the genre.
Dogs as Main Characters
Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Any list on mysteries and dogs has to include the great Sherlock Holmes classic. After the sudden and mysterious death of his friend Sir Charles Baskerville, Dr. James Mortimer calls on Sherlock Holmes to help get to the bottom of it and protect Sir Charles’s nephew, Sir Henry Baskerville. At the core, people think a ghost hound is responsible for the man’s death, but Holmes does not believe it. He sends Watson to keep an eye on the young heir. It’s probably the most gothic feeling of all Sherlock Holmes stories and certainly a favorite of mine.
Mimi Lee Gets a Clue by Jennifer J. Chow
I cannot get enough of Chow’s Sassy Cat series. Mimi Lee has just opened her new pet grooming business, Hollywoof, in LA But things get all tangled up when her sister drops off a cat who talks back. Not only does that throw Mimi for a loop, but Marshmallow, the talking cat, finds out that there is something shady going on with a chihuahua breeder. By talking to the dogs, of course. But things go from bad to worse, when the confronting police think she killed the breeder after she was overhearding him the day before. So can Mimi clear her name, keep her business going, and protect the dogs?
Dog On it by Spencer Quinn
We’ve got dogs as accessories and dogs as victims. Now, we’ve got a series told from the point of view of a dog. Bernie may not be the most successful private contempt, but his dog Chet thinks the moon of him. When Bernie is hired to look into the disappearance of a young girl, Chet is there to help him along the way, bumpy as it is. It’s really fun to see the world from Chet’s point of view with his focus on smells, adoration of his owner, and his not so great memory. There are 12 books and some novellas with book 13, Bark to the Futurecoming out in August.
Dog Themed Stories
Murder on the Iditarod Trail by Sue Henry
I’m a big fan of dogsledding so naturally this series focusing on Jessie Arnold, a musher, had to be on the list. Arnold is competing in the world-famous Iditarod, a 1,000 mile dogsledding race in Alaska. It’s a test of survival for the musher and their dogs. But that’s survival from the elements, not a murderer. When several mushers die in mysterious ways, State Trooper Alex Jensen is trying to get to the bottom of it all and to stop future deaths. For those who can’t get enough mushing, there are 13 books in the Jessie Arnold and Alex Jensen series.
The Pomeranian Always Barks Twice by Alex Erickson
This newer series features a veterinarian and pet rescuer. Liz Denton, who runs Furever Pets Rescue, and her adult son Ben are trying to help Timothy Fuller to rehome his elderly Pomeranian, Stewie. But when they show up to pick up the dog, Mr. Fuller’s son has shown up with his own crowd to take the dog away even though the son hates the dog. After an unpleasant encounter, they all leave to regroup. But when Timothy is found dead, knifed in the back, the police point the finger at Ben who was seen in the neighborhood around the time of the murder. Not only does Liz have to help Stewie, now she has to clear her son’s name. There are two books so far in the Furever Pets Mystery series.
Drop Dead on Recall by Sheila Webster Boneham
This series focuses on pet photographer and handler, Janet MacPhail. Tempers can rise at dog show competitions but handlers aren’t supposed to die on command. When Abigail Dorn dies in the middle of it, MacPhail decides to investigate to find out who might have wanted to see Dorn out of the competition permanently. But of course, she has to figure out her family life and protect her pets on top of it all. For people who are fascinated with the world of dog shows, this one’s for you. There are four books in this series.
In the Dog House by VM Burns
The poodle is named after Agatha Christie. Need I say more? Lilly Echosby is starting life over with her new poodle, Aggie, but that gets harder when her ex-husband gets murder. The police think Echosby is settling old scores. She calls on her friend Scarlett “Dixie” Jefferson with her own two poodles to help clear her name. There are five books in the Dog Club Mystery series.
Dogs as Sidekicks
Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien
Thanks to a breakup and a rash decision to quit her job, Lana Lee finds herself working at her parents’ noodle shop until she can figure out next steps. She had not anticipated that the mall’s property manager, where her parents’ restaurant is based, would show up dead with their shrimp dumplings in front of him. Especially since it was well known that he was allergic to it. While Lee figures out how to protect herself and everyone at the restaurant, Lana’s pug, Kikkoman, named for the soy sauce brand that the dog resembles, is a great comfort to Lana throughout the series. There are eight books in the Noodle Shop Mysteries.
The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
Yes, we’ve got some Dashiell Hammett on this list. While best known for gritty characters, Nick and Nora Charles are a delight with their dog Asta. When they go back to New York for the holidays where Nick had been a private investigator, the daughter of his old client, Clyde Wynatt, implores him to help her out when her father goes missing and an associate of her father shows up dead. It’s got a bit of everything (including a lot of drinking). But Asta steals the show in both the book and the 1934 movie.
Arsenic and Adobe by Mia P. Manansala
Lila Macapagal has returned to her hometown of Shady Palms after a disastrous love affair in Chicago. She’s helping out at her family’s Filipino restaurant. But when her ex-boyfriend/food inspector dies in the restaurant from poison ingested his food, the police think she or her family were settling old scores. Lila has to find a way to clear their name as well as deal with two very attractive men… And like Lana Lee, Lila has an adorable dachshund called Longanisa, named after the Filipino style sausage the dog resembles. We need our furry friends in times of need.
For folks who want more dogs, here’s my list of books about dogsledding. Or if you want more animal mysteries, here’s a list of Cozy Cat Mysteries.