NS: The Jazz Ramsey Mystery Series featuring The Scent of Murder and your most recent title The Secret of Bones and the forthcoming A Trail of Lies follows Jazz Ramsey, a school administrator and dog handler, and her cadaver sidekick. We love mysteries & thrillers that feature furry protagonists. Why do dogs make the perfect sidekicks, especially when on the hunt for a killer?
KL: Well, cadaver dogs are certainly wonderful allies when it comes to nosing out crime! Human Remains Detection (HRD) dogs are trained to alert their handlers of one thing and one thing only—the scent of human decay. They are amazing dogs (and their handlers are incredible, too!) and like all dogs, they have amazing noses, far more attuned to detecting smells than people will ever be. So for the Jazz Ramsey mysteries, starting off with a cadaver dog is perfect.
As all dog owners will also tell you, dogs are also great sounding boards. Jazz frequently tells her dog, Wally, her theories and suspicions. No, he doesn’t answer back! He’s a great sidekick in that respect.
And of course, dogs are smart and fearless. What better buddy to have on your side when you’re on the hunt for a killer!
NS: There are some feminist undertones in both The Scent of Murder and The Secret of Bones from the plot itself as well as the main protagonist Jazz Ramsey, a take-charge leader who is as fearless as she is thoughtful. We kind of wish she was our best friend. What are the key ingredients to writing an unforgettable main character?
KL: Well, you certainly hit on an important one. A likable, memorable protagonist is someone we want to get to know, someone we’d like to have a cup of coffee with. That doesn’t mean we have to like that person. It does mean we want to find out what makes them tick, what’s going on in their minds.
Part of that, of course, is to make that character feel real. No one is perfect, and no reader wants to read about a character of perfect. So yeah, while Jazz has plenty of good qualities, she’s not some goddess who can do no wrong. She’s got some prejudices, especially when it comes to her boyfriend, Nick’s, mother. And in A Trail of Lies, she’s going to have to come face to face with those prejudices and make some important decisions about what kind of person she really is.
NS: You have decades of experience writing under different pen names. Despite writing in different genres, you’ve often gravitated toward mysteries. In your opinion, what makes a good mystery? What mystery genre are you most attached to – and why? What mystery genre do you think is essential for everyone to read at least once?
KL: I’m pretty much a traditional mystery/cozy mystery person myself so of course, that’s what I think everyone should read! I’m not a fan or graphic or gory and those two sub-genres usually stay away from anything like that. As to what makes a good mystery . . . well, we talked a little bit about that already—character. Readers want characters they care about. They want to turn the pages wondering what those characters are up to, what they’re going to do next.
And of course, a challenging and interesting mystery has to be a big part of the whole thing. As a reader, I want to be surprised, I want to be kept guessing. I love the twists and turns of a mystery plot.
NS: It’s been a pretty tough year and a half for everyone due to the pandemic. What are you currently reading and/or watching to pass the time?
KL: My watching habits lately have been a little mixed-up. I adore the new “All Creatures Great and Small” series on PBS. It is so warm and charming. On the other hand, I’ve also been binging on documentaries about the ancient world, from Egypt to Pompeii. I can tell you I don’t think I will ever write about either of those places of those civilizations, yet I find it all fascinating.
NS: Who are some classic animal sidekicks in crime fiction that you love to read?
KL: Having trouble coming with anyone but Asta! Oh, my friend, Stephanie Cole, has a truffle hunting dog named Sophie in her Tuscan Cooking School mysteries. I always like to see what they’re up to. Does the hound of the Baskervilles count? I’ve read and re-read that story, and never get tired of it!
Jazz Ramsey is just getting used to the idea that her on-again-off-again beau, Nick, might actually be a permanent fixture, when she gets an alarming call in the middle of the night from his mother, Kim: there’s a dead man in her backyard. Kim has a long history of drinking and a vivid imagination, so when Jazz’s human remains detection dog, Wally, finds no evidence of a body, Jazz thinks she can breathe easy.
But when the body of a middle-aged man, Dan Mansfield, is discovered in a nearby park, and a photo of Nick and his mom is found in his pocket, Jazz has to admit that something isn’t adding up. Kim claims not to know who Dan is, but the cops find out soon enough: he’s a recently paroled convict who served thirty years for murder. And when Jazz traces his crime back to a bar fight with an antiques dealer, she ends up with more questions than answers.
Meanwhile, no one wants her poking around–not Nick’s mom, nor the Motorcycle-riding ex-con she connects to Dan, nor Nick himself, who seems worried about Jazz’s safety, but also about what she might find. But Jazz has never been one to take no for an answer, and she won’t give up now–even if it means risking her own life.
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