Arts & Literature
Mastiffs in Mysteries
by Marlene Mesot
Dogs in mysteries is nothing new. Many mysteries feature military and police dogs, search and rescue dogs, and therapy dogs of various breeds. Some of the more common are golden retrievers, shepherds and labs.
Until recently not much has been written in fiction about the large working breed of mastiff. According to the online dictionary of etymology, the mastiff is a large, powerful breed of dog, apparently dating to ancient times, valued as a watch-dog, mid 14th century. There are now four types of mastiffs: Neapolitan, Tibetan, Old English and now American. I will focus on the Old English as it is the most widely recognized in the U.S.
The reason I chose this gentle giant is because we have owned mastiffs since my husband and I were married. My late husband Albert was a breeder from 1980 to 2001. He had two mastiffs since 1971 and I still have two today. We also owned and operated a dog and cat boarding and grooming facility, Granite-T-Kennels in Milford NH, for seven years during the 1980s.
The black muzzle and loose skin are prominent characteristics of the breed. They can weigh from 120 to 180 pounds. There have been some weighing over two hundred pounds but that is not good for the dogs. Our largest dog, Tucker, weighed 180 pounds and wore a thirty inch neck collar. You could actually reach out to pet him without bending as his head came to about waist level. The Old English mastiff comes in three colors, fawn (most common), apricot, and brindle. Most mastiffs in books are fawn color.
In the beloved Andy Carpenter legal cozy mystery series by David Rosenfelt, book 9, One Dog Night, a mastiff is featured briefly as a minor character. Andy has to defend Bailey’s owner Noah against a mass murder charge. Bailey stays with the Carpenters in their home while Noah’s wife and son are sent out of state for protection. Noah’s father-in-law can’t take the dog as he is allergic. Andy does his best thinking while walking Tara, his golden retriever, who is in every book. This story is significant because Noah is Tara’s previous owner.
An Amazon ad for a mystery book had me staring at it, almost in disbelief. I kept asking myself, “Is that really a mastiff on that book cover?” I actually went to the website and “looked inside” to read the beginning to see if I could verify what I thought my eyes were telling me. (Actually I only have sight in one eye but that’s beside the point.) Sure enough, in her Pet Psychic cozy mystery series, Shannon Esposito featured a mastiff in book one, Karma’s a Bitch. The dog, named Sam, belonged to a homeless man who was murdered. I had hoped he would be part of the series, but he found a loving home before the book ended.
One of my favorite mysteries of all time is Deception by Randy Alcorn. It is a tight, well researched and written story, the third book in a trilogy, Detective Ollie Chandler Mysteries. Detective Chandler owns a bull mastiff named Mike Hammer, nick name Mulch. But, the detective has to make a trip to Florida in one part of the story, where he visits with a policeman who happens to own mastiffs himself. This is a twisting tale with some humor and some heart-warming and heart-wrenching parts.
In one of my favorite series, Raine Stockton Dog Mysteries by Donna Ball. there is a classic line in her novella All That Glitters. The star of this series is Raine’s golden retriever Cisco. It is another amazing cozy series with memorable characters and exciting stories. Near the end of the novella Raine says, “A mastiff stepped on my foot.” Most of the time they try to sit on your foot, especially in the kitchen.
Finally a mastiff makes it into a two book series. This mastiff named Sam is still a minor character but he performs his duty as a guard dog and gets along well with the other canines in the books. The star of this series is a Saint Bernard named Paw. A Dog Detective Mystery series includes Book 1 Mastiffs Mystery and Murder and Book 2 Bassets and Blackmail.
I am thinking about adding a mastiff to my 4 Elements of Mystery series, in book 3 Whirlwind of Fear, currently in progress. Alex and Missy Marcus could use a guard dog.
About the Author
Marlene Mesot writes contemporary Christian mystery, suspense, romance, short stories and poetry. She has also written a one act play which is included as bonus material in her novel The Purging Fire.
Marlene Mesot, an only child, grandchild and niece from Manchester New Hampshire, and deceased husband Albert, have two sons, two grandchildren and English Mastiff dogs. She is legally blind and moderately deaf due to nerve damage at premature birth. She has loved writing since early childhood.
Marlene holds a Bachelor of Education degree from Keene State in Keene, New Hampshire and a Masters in Library and Information Studies from U-NC Greensboro, North Carolina. Visit her website http://www.marlsmenagerie.com.