Book reviews: 2 engaging tales that let dogs shine

Brown Lab mix dog in a harness lying outside in fallen leaves
"Home at Night: A Mercy Carr Mystery" and "Please Write: A Novel in Letters" both feature dogs as main characters who are meaningful to the plot.
By Sally Rosenthal

Dogs and books: two of this reviewer’s favorite things! Books with dogs as main characters are even better. Whether the canine in question lends a paw in solving murders or plays a part in a literary tale, the pups in these two featured novels will win the hearts of all dog-loving readers.

Home at Night: A Mercy Carr Mystery by Paula Munier. Minotaur, 2023. 352 pages.

Ordering information

As a reviewer of animal-related books, I come across more and more mystery series featuring dogs and cats. Call me jaded, but simply popping a furry friend into a sleuth’s life doesn’t make a mystery series animal themed. Sure I, like any dog or cat lover, enjoy coming across one of them in (primarily) cozy mysteries. What really makes a mystery series animal themed to me, though, is having those dogs and cats play an integral role in the plot as well as in their human’s life.

That is precisely why Paula Munier’s Mercy Carr series is high on my list of dog-related series. The engaging series features private investigator Mercy Carr; her game warden husband, Troy; and their two working dogs, Elvis and Susie Bear. In Home at Night, the fifth entry in the series, readers will find themselves quickly drawn into the familiar Vermont setting and Mercy’s penchant for stumbling upon a dead body and, in finely crafted plot twists, tracking down the culprits.

This time out, in the midst of buying a local — and perhaps haunted — crumbling mansion with ties to a literary legend, Mercy and Elvis also help Troy and Susie Bear foil a ring exporting endangered wetland species.

Fans of Mercy Carr and her closely knit circle of family and friends will not be disappointed by Paula’s new novel. Readers who haven’t yet met Mercy and Elvis, start reading; I guarantee you will become hooked.

Please Write: A Novel in Letters by J. Wynn Rousuck. Bancroft Press, 2023. 252 pages.

Ordering information

It would be all too easy to call Please Write: A Novel in Letters a sweet, charming debut by J. Wynn Rousuck, but that would be selling this deceptively simple book short. This story, set in the 1990s, features an exchange of letters between two family canines in Baltimore and their grandma Vivienne, a recently widowed artist living in Cleveland. It chronicles the woes of a very proper Boston terrier named Winslow when a highly energetic rescued puppy — appropriately named Zippy — joins him and the household’s humans, Pamela and Frank.

Before long, Winslow takes matters into his own paws and introduces Zippy to the art of typing letters to their grandmother as well as learning to become a well-mannered dog. Through Winslow’s and Zippy’s letters to Grandma Vivienne and her replies, often tucked into a package of homemade dog treats, readers are drawn into the lives of the grandmother; her daughter, theater critic Pamela; and Pamela’s husband, Frank, who is battling alcoholism.

As Grandma Vivienne copes with grief and illness and Pamela and Frank’s marriage hits some particularly rough patches, Winslow and Zippy show just how important dogs can be in times of sadness and transition. Often very funny and, at times, quite poignant, Please Write is a lovely and loving piece of fiction that will melt the heart of anyone lucky enough to love and be loved by a dog.

Let's make every shelter and every community no-kill by 2025

Our goal at Best Friends is to support all animal shelters in the U.S. in reaching no-kill by 2025. No-kill means saving every dog and cat in a shelter who can be saved, accounting for community safety and good quality of life for pets. 

Shelter staff can’t do it alone. Saving animals in shelters is everyone’s responsibility, and it takes support and participation from the community. No-kill is possible when we work together thoughtfully, honestly, and collaboratively.

Silhouette of two dogs, cat and kitten

You can help save homeless pets

You can help end the killing in shelters and save the lives of homeless pets when you foster, adopt, and advocate for the dogs and cats who need it most.

Saving lives around the country

Together, we're creating compassionate no-kill communities nationwide for pets and the people who care for them.

Let’s be friends! 

Connect with us on social media to stay in the loop about the lifesaving progress we’re making together.  

Facebook logo    Instagram logo    icon

Book Reviews