In her new book, "Murder Strikes a Pose," Seattle yoga studio owner/instructor Tracy Weber tries her hand at a "cozy" murder mystery and follows the classic writing adage of "write what you know" by making her heroine a Seattle yoga studio owner/instructor.
When a homeless man with a barking German Shepherd plants himself in front of Kate Davidson's business and tries to sell copies of Dollars for Change, a paper written by and about the homeless, Kate comes close to forgetting the yogic principles of kindness and compassion as she witnesses this unkempt duo scaring her customers away.
But what begins as an uneasy truce with George and his dog Bella develops into a surprisingly good friendship as Kate learns more about George's past and is drawn into his current worries about his dog's health.
Shortly after they've become better acquainted, however, she hears an argument one night out in back of her shop, and when she goes to investigate, she finds George's lifeless body in a pool of blood. She calls 911, and when police arrive they chalk it up as another drug-related street crime.
Kate steps in to prevent traumatized Bella from being shipped off to Animal Control, and while it's too late to save George, she figures at least she can defend his reputation. She is sure her luckless buddy was not involved in a drug deal, but when she tries to come up with other scenarios as to why somebody would want to kill him, the cops aren't interested in hearing any of her theories.
Neither is George's estranged daughter, whom Kate has tracked down in order to try to hand over Bella. Kate gets a door slammed in her face.
Yet somebody seems to be paying attention to Kate's amateur sleuthing, because it seems that now her life may be in danger.
As a debut novelist, Weber has done a good job of seeding the plot with topics that clearly matter to her, from special needs animals and the resources that are available to help them, to homelessness, to yoga.
Some of the most sensuous passages in the book concern describe yoga poses and their restorative benefits - these are on a par with the food writing of M.F.K. Fisher, say, or Laurie Colwin.
Weber also has developed a meaningful back story for Kate and some interesting supporting characters - an avuncular cop, a meddling best friend and a client with a chronic condition who made an impactful appearance in this book and should be brought back as a recurring character.
A fellow small business owner serves as a love interest. The romantic tumult comes on pretty strong in this book, however, and in a manner that emphasizes sex drive over charm - perhaps not quite in keeping with the typical tone of a "cozy."
Overall, pacing of the story could use some work, but the unusual combination of dog and yoga elements seems to point to the success of Weber's impending Downward Dog Mystery series.
THIS WEEK'S BOOK
"Murder Strikes a Pose," Tracy Weber
Barbara Lloyd McMichael writes a weekly column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Pacific Northwest. Contact her at email@example.com