Death by Tooth and Claw
There are a million ways to kill a character and writers have done it all. In fact, we’ve gotten so inventive at killing that it’s a real challenge to come up with a believable death that hasn’t been written into a TV show, movie or book. But that’s part of what makes writing fun. There’s no thrill like doing in someone in a way the reader probably hasn’t experienced before.
In Bigfoot Blues, the latest in my Elvis Sightings Mystery series, I bump off a guy by animal. Animal themed murder mysteries are pretty common. Dick Francis made a career with horse themed mysteries. The list of pets as murder solving gumshoes or sidekicks is as long as my arm. Lillian Jackson Braun has written over 30 books featuring two crime solving cats named Koko and Yum Yum. But mysteries with animals doing the killing aren’t so common. Probably for good reason. It’s not easy to invest a fairly straightforward death with a shroud of mystery. I mean, the killer is a critter, it doesn’t have motives or try to cover it’s tracks, right?
The approach I took was to call into question the nature of the killing itself. Was it really even an animal? The official consensus is the deceased was done in by a rogue mountain lion. But with persistent rumors about a chupacabra on the loose, maybe there’s more to it? Cause those things aren’t supposed to even exist. And then add in the fact that the dead man is a taxidermist, with access to things like animal claws and teeth, and all of the sudden “death by animal” isn’t so straight forward.
My stories all live on the edge of being surreal, some might even say absurd, so I can get away with a lot that traditional mystery writers would have a hard time working into their books. You’d be pretty put off if James Patterson tried to write a chupa into a novel, for example, but when the main character is a Lifestyle Elvis who’s life is guided by “What would Elvis do?” and his sidekick is a querulous 3½ foot tall ex-circus performer, it’s not so much of a stretch.
As oddball as my books can get, I still play fair with the reader. My killer animal, be it natural, supernatural or human, still leaves behind clues and a literal trail to follow. Constructing that trail of clues and the ultimate solving of the mystery, despite the animal theme, is done pretty much the same way as I’d handle a real murder mystery. Before I write word one, I have to know why did it happen, how did it happen, and what happened to make the solution not obvious, but not Agatha Christie impossible to figure out either. Without admitting whether or not it really was an animal, I will say that working from the assumption it is a critter makes answering those questions a lot harder. With a normal murder, the killer doesn’t want to be caught – that’s why it isn’t obvious. Again, my approach was to lay groundwork up front that would make it difficult to conclude whether the death was really a simple animal attack or if the animal angle is misdirection. I started by giving one character a really good reason to want the dead man to be dead, then gave him access to those animal teeth and claws I mentioned. I also made my protagonist prone to seeing conspiracies, so while he suspects foul play, he also had to doubt his reasoning. The result, I think, is that you’ll be hard pressed to figure out exactly who the killer is, and why the killer killed in the first place, and you’ll laugh along the way trying to figure it out.
Humans are rarely killed by animals, but here are some animal attack facts you may not know.
If you are an American, you are 20x more likely to be killed by a cow than a shark. It’s true. Every year in America there are about 20 people killed by cow and only 1 by shark. This year the sharks are upping their game, but the cows still have a while to catch up.
Actually, sharks really haven’t been living up to their predator of the seas reputation. Jellyfish kill about 8x as many people per year, all without having teeth.
As vicious and blood thirsty as the cow is, you know what’s deadlier? The deer. They manage to do in about 120 people a year by jumping in front of our cars. Kamikaze deer.
You know what else is deadlier than the shark? Falling coconuts. True, the coconut tree isn’t an animal, but apparently it is really pissed at us for guzzling its milk and takes us out to the tune of about 150 people a year. Vending machines don’t like us either, while we’re on the non-animal theme, and whack about a dozen Americans a year. Sharks are wimps.
Do you find unique ways to kill your characters?
Oh, do tell!
Now all about Bigfoot Blues!
She eloped with Bigfoot. Or maybe Bigfoot kidnapped her. Either way, I've been hired to uncover the truth behind Cindy Funk's disappearance. Me? I'm Floyd, and I'm a PI living my life as Elvis would have wanted. Not just in sequined jumpsuits. With character.
Cindy's trail leads me to River City, Oregon
—aka the Mythical Creature Capital of the World—where I catch Case #2. This one from an eccentric billionaire who's lost a priceless piece of "art." Enter one dead body and I end up deputized to solve Case #3, tracking down a man-eating mountain lion. Or maybe it's a chupacabra. Or just an ordinary murderer. Hard to say.
I've handled my fair share of crazy, but River City
's secrets have me spooked. With an influx of tourists arriving for the town's annual Elvis tribute contest—what are the chances?—I've got to save the girl, solve the rich guy's problem and leash that chupacabra before a second body is discovered. It might just be mine.
Read more about Floyd's adventures in Elvis Sightings
, available now!
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It was ten past two on a
Wednesday and I was sitting behind my desk in the office I share with Franklin,
a chiropractor. His wife had sent me looking for him almost four years ago, but
she was such a harridan that once I’d found him, I couldn’t bring myself to
turn over his location. He’d let me use his place as an office, rent-free, ever
I checked my watch
Wanda was flying back
to Kresge today. I resented being dragged away from her, even for just an hour,
but the man on the phone had insisted. It had been more than a month since my
last case, so while Wanda packed, I came into the office to meet Peter Funk.
And he was late.
The clock hit 2:15. I
was about to leave when a very lost-looking man in his fifties opened the door.
“You must be Floyd,” he
said, taking off his well-worn Caterpillar cap. His bald head had the baked
look of someone who spent a lot of time under the hot Idaho sun. “Your Elvis
outfit kinda gives it away,” he added.
He smiled weakly and
bobbed his head up and down in the affirmative.
I pointed him to a seat
and sat back down at my desk.
“So what can I do for
you?” I asked.
Funk looked down at the
cap in his hands and worried at a loose thread with his callused fingers.
“I need you to find my
daughter,” he said and looked up at me. “You’ve got to help me. I don’t know
who else to turn to.”
“I’d be happy to help,
Mr. Funk, but with missing children you’re much better off going to the
Funk stood up and
slapped his hat against his thigh. A small cloud of dirt erupted from the dull
blue denim of his pants.
“Oh, the cops won’t
help me. Cindy’s eighteen. They said they can’t go looking for her if she’s
just run off,” he said. “Besides…”
“Besides what, Mr.
He took his seat again
before finally blurting out, “She ran off to elope with Bigfoot.”
I would have laughed if
Funk hadn’t looked so worried.
“Bigfoot?” I said.
“That’s a nickname?”
Funk pulled a postcard
out of his jeans pocket and handed it to me.
On one side was a
teenage boy holding up a plaster casting of a giant footprint nearly three feet
long. Across the bottom it read “River City—The Home of Bigfoot.” I turned it
over. The postmark was three weeks ago in River City, Oregon. The note on the
I’ve fallen in love
with Bigfoot and we’ve decided to elope. I won’t be coming back to Pocatello.
I’ll write again soon.
She’d put a little
heart in place of the dot above the is in both Bigfoot and Cindy.
River City… The name was familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it.
“My girl, she’s a willful one she is, but Cindy’s never lied to me. Not once,” Funk said. “If Cindy says she’s eloped with Bigfoot, that’s exactly what she’s done.”
Why did I get all the
weirdos? Was it the suit? Or the Lifestyle Elvis thing? Or maybe this was some
sort of elaborate practical joke. I let out a low sigh.
A case is a case, I told myself. And
this one was just too absurd to be someone shining me on.
Ricardo Sanchez is a writer, toy buff, and lifelong comic
, the first novel in his Elvis Sightings Mysteries
series, was released in September , 2014. Bigfoot
, the follow up, was released in May, 2015.
Ricardo has written several books for DC Comics, including Batman:
Legends of the Dark Knight, Teen Titans Go!
and Resident Evil
many others. His original project, A Hero’s Death
, was a successful
Kickstarter released in May, 2015.
In addition to writing, Ricardo is an Emmy award winning video and animation
producer. When he’s not writing, Ricardo maintains a vintage toy blog, drives
70's muscle cars, and shops year round for Halloween decorations for his home
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