Top Ten Tuesday: Animals from Books

Top Ten Tuesdays is a meme currently being run by the blog That Artsy Reader Girl. Put simply each Tuesday has a theme assigned to it and participating blogs come up with a top ten list around it. The theme this week is animals from books.

I have quite an interest in animals in crime fiction, so coming up with possible examples for this list was not too difficult. I haven’t gone just for my favourite characters who are animals, though some of these are such, but have instead tried to find some more quirkier reasons. I also set myself the rule of not going for the most well-known examples in case anyone is wondering why I have overlooked The Hound of the Baskervilles or Dumb Witness.

  1. Listening in the Dusk (1990) by Celia Fremlin

Ever since I read The Hours Before Dawn, I have been a big fan of Fremlin’s work. This is one of her later efforts, yet her talent to entertain continues. This is an interesting mystery as the motive for a serial killer’s murderous spree revolves around an environmental issue, namely the destruction of a local bat community’s habitat. As a motive for murder I thought this was quite unusual.

2. Crime in Kensington (1933) by Christopher St John Sprigg

This is Sprigg’s debut novel and a murderer wreaks havoc at a residential hotel. It also happens to feature a cat, owned by one of the resident’s, and I wonder if this is the first fictional example of a feline being used as a sniffer cat, (which a quick Google search shows is not so unusual in real life). It is done quite comically, though the cat is useful in locating some key evidence.

3. Death of Anton (1936) by Alan Melville

Since this mystery takes place at a circus, there are quite a few animals in this book. However, there are two I wish to focus on. The first is a sea lion named Horace. He is deployed in a wonderfully and absurdly comical scene in which a vicar, (the brother of the policeman investigating the case), ends up sat next to him at a bangers and mash party. It is not a very big scene, but it is one I have always remembered. The tigers at the circus also play an interesting and emotional role within the story and I liked how Melville tries to convey the thoughts of them.

4. Three Bags Full (2005) by Leonie Swann

This is by no means a perfect book, but I love the concept of it, namely having a flock of sheep investigate the murder of their shepherd. The primary sleuth is an ewe named Miss Maple.  

5. Murder’s a Swine (1943) by Nap Lombard

This is a tricky one to give any details about, but all I will say is that I love how an animal is used to bring about a killer’s confession. The choice of animal and how they are used is delightfully bonkers and cuckoo, but I loved it!

  1. The Man Who Was Not There (1943) by Ethel Lina White

This is one of my favourite examples of a zoo-set mystery. In this case it is a private zoo, which a protagonist is invited to during a blackout in WW2 – which naturally is one of the silliest of times to go to a zoo when someone has got murderous intentions…

  1. Wish You Were Dead (1958) by Helen McCloy

This is an abridged version of McCloy’s earlier novel She Walks Alone (1948). Even though it is a shorter version I still felt it worked very well with the plot hanging together effectively. A chunk of the book is situated on a boat and one passenger is taking a snake on board called Medusa. She is meant to be well-secured in her cage, but we all know that will not be the case… The reason I have selected this occasion of an animal in mystery fiction is because I like how the different culprits attempt to use the snake in their plans, but then Medusa does not play ball entirely and the crooks are required to work around her deviations.

  1. ?

For my 8th choice I am not going to give a title or author, because I want to talk about something spoiler-ish. By not revealing which book it takes place in, I am hoping it won’t spoil anyone’s reading. One of the funniest impossible crime solutions I have come across involving an animal entails a pigeon having chosen to pick up the gun and fly away with it!

  1. Maurice and Bouncer

This duo are a cat and dog, who appear in Suzette A. Hill’s Rev. Francis Oughterard series. The stories are told from their point of view as they watch their owner and his social circle get in and out of various scrapes. Their owner, a vicar, begins book 1 in the series by bumping off a crazed parishioner, in the heat of the moment, since they are determined to marry him. He escapes arrest only through the endeavours of his pets, who don’t want to lose their home. The animal character voices are well-crafted and I love the humour of the series.

  1. The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra (2015) by Vaseem Khan

This is the first book in a series in which a retired police officer inherits a baby elephant from a now deceased uncle and events follow which see the pair entering the world of private investigators. Like my selection of the Alan Melville novel, I choose this story because of one scene in particular when Inspector Chopra has to lure his elephant up a mall escalator using a chocolate bar!

Which animals do you enjoy the most from crime fiction?

16 comments

  1. I think a pigeon would have difficulties in picking up a gun – no matter how small – and flying away from it.
    That’s the polite way of putting it.
    Edmund Crispin features animals in several stories, but Love Lies Bleeding includes a bloodhound.
    Peter Dickinson also has animals in important roles in some of his novels- the chimpanzee Dinah in The Poison Oracle and in Walking Dead a psychic white rat named Quentin has an important role.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m yet to read the Baby Ganesh books but I have another of his on my NetGalley pile which sounds pretty interesting–no animals mentioned but a historical mystery featuring one of the first policewomen in the country (fictional I think)

    Liked by 1 person

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