Murder Strikes a Pose by Tracy Weber – Review, Guest Post + Giveaway

I received this book for free from . This review is voluntary. My opinion is not influenced in any way.

five-stars

Murder Strikes a Pose

by Tracy Weber

on Tour August 2014

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Published by: Midnight Ink

Publication Date: January 8, 2014

Number of Pages: 288

ISBN: 978-0738739687

Purchase Links:

Synopsis:

When George and Bella—a homeless alcoholic and his intimidating German shepherd—disturb the peace outside her studio, yoga instructor Kate Davidson’s Zen-like calm is stretched to the breaking point. Kate tries to get rid of them before Bella scares the yoga pants off her students. Instead, the three form an unlikely friendship.

One night Kate finds George’s body behind her studio. The police dismiss his murder as a drug-related street crime, but she knows George wasn’t a dealer. So Kate starts digging into George’s past while also looking for someone to adopt Bella before she’s sent to the big dog park in the sky. With the murderer nipping at her heels, Kate has to work fast or her next Corpse Pose may be for real.

Read an excerpt:

I laid my body on the cool wood floor, covered up with a blanket, and prepared to die.

Metaphorically, that is.

Corpse Pose’s ten-minute rest always soothed my stressed-out nerves, and for once I didn’t feel guilty about the indulgence. My to-do list was blank, Serenity Yoga’s phone was silent, and I had a whole blissful hour between clients to do my favorite activity: practice yoga.

Even my eclectic Greenwood neighborhood seemed uncharacteristically quiet, lulled by Seattle’s rare afternoon sun. The residents of the apartments above the yoga studio were off at their day jobs; the alcohol-addicted patrons of the block’s two dive bars slept off their Jim Beam breakfasts; the soccer moms shopping at next door’s upscale PhinneyWood Market purchased the day’s supplies in unusual silence.

I wiggled my toes under a Mexican blanket, covered my eyes with a blue satin eye pillow, and inhaled deeply. The ooey-gooey smell of Mocha Mia’s chocolate caramel cake wafted from across the street and filled my nostrils with sweet toffee-scented bliss—my all-time favorite aromatherapy.

Paradise. Simply paradise.

I released my weight into the earth and silently coached myself, exactly as I would one of my students. OK, Kate. Feel your body relax. Notice the random fluctuations of your mind and—

A vicious snarl ripped through the silence, startling me out of my catnap. I sat straight up, eye pillow falling to the floor with an undignified thump.

What the heck?

When had a dog fighting ring moved into the neighborhood?

A dog fight was the only plausible explanation for the commotion outside. Bursts of deep, frantic barking were followed by high-pitched yelping, all punctuated by the peace-shattering sounds of angry yelling. The phrases I could make out confirmed my suspicions. This had to be a dog fight, albeit one-sided.

“Control your dog!”

“Get that vicious beast out of here!”

And even a simple, “What the hell?”

I closed the door between the yoga room and the studio’s lobby, hoping to block out the intrusive sounds. Snarls, shouts, and an occasional ear-piercing shriek continued to reverberate right through the wall.

Undaunted, I imagined that the sounds were merely clouds floating across my mental horizon. Most of those clouds were dark and ominous, like the deep thunderclouds preceding a hailstorm. But every so often I heard a soft voice, more like the fluffy clouds of childhood summers. I couldn’t quite make out his words, but I could tell that the speaker was a man. From his tone, I assumed he was trying to calm beasts both human and animal.

It wasn’t working.

Neither, for that matter, was my attempted meditation.

I’d obviously have to shift tactics.

I tried drowning out the clamor with low, soft chanting. Then I increased the volume. But even as I belted out Om Santi, my favorite mantra for peace, I felt my jaw start to tighten. My fingernails bit deeply into my palms. My shoulders crept up to my ears.

An entirely different mantra began pounding through my head: Don’t get me angry; you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

A series of yelps and the words “I’m calling the cops!” zapped me like a cattle prod. I leapt from my mat and stormed across the floor, determined to put a stop to that infernal racket. I hurled open the door and came face-to-face, or rather face-to-snout, with the source of the commotion. Not more than five feet away from the studio’s entrance stood a paunchy, dark-haired man and the biggest, skinniest, meanest-looking German shepherd I had ever seen. Don’t get me wrong. I like dogs. I love them, in fact. It’s their human counterparts I could sometimes do without. But this frothing breast was no Rin Tin Tin. A long line of drool oozed from its mouth. Its sharp white teeth glinted in the sunlight, and its black wiry topcoat still stood on end from the prior scuffle. The dog was obviously rabid.
I didn’t recognize the man standing next to the frightening creature, but I did recognize his activity. He worked as a vendor for Dollars for Change, a well-regarded local newspaper that published articles about homelessness and poverty while employing those same homeless individuals as salespeople. Ordinarily I would have welcomed one of their vendors outside my business. If nothing else, supporting the paper demonstrated yoga’s principles of kindness and compassion.
But this was not an ordinary circumstance. I absolutely could not allow that disgusting dog to raise a ruckus outside my studio. The prenatal class would have a fit. Suffice it to say that pregnancy hormones didn’t always leave expecting moms in the best of moods. My moms-to-be liked their yoga practice. They needed their yoga practice. And they needed to be serene while doing it. If a noisy dog fight disturbed their peaceful experience, I’d be the one getting barked at.

Thinking less than yogic thoughts, I marched up to the pair, determined to put a stop to the chaos.

“What in the world’s going on out here?”

The human half of the dastardly duo held a leash in one hand, newspapers in the other. He smiled at me and said, “Sorry about all the noise. I’m George, and this here’s Bella. What’s your name?”

“Kate Davidson, but—”

“Well, nice to meet you, Kate. I’d shake your hand, but mine are full, so Bella will have to do it instead.”

The vicious beast walked up and calmly sniffed my hand. I prayed she wasn’t about to ingest my fingers.

“Bella, say hello!”

Upon hearing her owner’s command, the giant hairy monster-dog immediately went into a perfect sit and sweetly offered me her paw. Maybe she wasn’t rabid after all. Just huge and ill-mannered.

“Don’t mind Bella,” he continued. “She’s very friendly to people. She just doesn’t like other dogs much. She’d be fine if people kept their unruly mutts to themselves, but they think if their rude dog wants to play, Bella has to as well.” He shook his head in disgust. “I don’t understand some people!”

I tried to interrupt, to tell him that his dog was the problem, but he didn’t give me the chance.

“Bella and I are new to this neighborhood, and we’re supposed to sell papers near the market. I tried setting up by the north entrance, but there’s a pet store at that end. Pete’s Pets, I think it’s called? The owner was a nice enough guy and all, but selling there was a disaster with all those dogs going in and out. Bella wasn’t happy at all.” He shrugged. “So I guess we’re going to have to hang out here instead.”

I bit the inside of my lip and considered my options. Up close, George wasn’t exactly the paragon of health I wanted standing outside my business. His friendly smile exposed yellowed teeth in need of significant dental care, and if the sharp, ammonia-like smell was any indication, neither he nor Bella had taken a bath in quite some time. At three-thirty in the afternoon, I could smell whiskey on his breath, and I suspected this most recent drink hadn’t been his first of the day. It would also likely be far from his last. I only knew one thing for certain: if George didn’t frighten my students away, his loud, intimidating, fur-covered companion would.

I needed them to leave, but honestly, I didn’t want to say it out loud. After all, I taught yoga for a living. People expected me to be calm and collected at all times. I wasn’t allowed to be mean, or even irritated, for that matter. I hesitated as I tried to come up with the perfect words to make him want to move, if not out of the neighborhood, then at least across the street.

Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), one of my favorite students picked that very moment to walk up with her five-month-old Lab pup, Coalie. “Hey, Kate!” she said. “I hoped I’d run into you! Do you still have space in your Core Strength class tonight?”
Coalie was as rude and friendly as Labs everywhere. She couldn’t stop herself if she tried. She ran up to Bella, wiggling her entire body with glee, and covered Bella’s muzzle in sloppy wet puppy kisses.

Bella wasted no time. Faster than a 747 and stronger than a freight train, Bella pinned Coalie to the ground between her front legs, snarling and air-snapping on either side of Coalie’s neck. I heard the sound of canine teeth chomping together and imagined soft puppy bones shattering between them.
My student screamed. Coalie yelped. George grabbed Bella’s collar while I reached in between razor-sharp teeth to pull Coalie from the jaws of death. The three of us wrestled the two dogs apart, but not before my student almost died of heart failure.

“What’s wrong with you?” she yelled. “Keep that vicious monster away from my baby!”

George quickly apologized, but said, “No damage done. Bella was just teaching that pup some manners.” He pointed at Coalie. “See, it’s all good!”

Coalie, oblivious with joy, seemed unscathed and ready to dive in again. Tail wagging and butt wiggling, she pulled with all her might, trying desperately to get back to Bella.

Bella had other plans. She sat next to George, glaring directly at that pup with a patented Clint Eastwood stare. Go ahead, she seemed to say. Make my day. My soon-to-be-former student ran off as quickly as her legs would move, dragging the still-happy puppy behind her.

“See you in class tonight!” I yelled to her rapidly retreating back. I doubted I’d be seeing her any time soon.

Yoga reputation be damned. I had to get rid of this guy.

I put my hands on my hips and stood nice and tall, taking full advantage of my five-foot-three-inch frame. “Look. I can’t let you stay here with the dog. She’s obviously frightening people. You have to leave.” I paused a moment for emphasis, then added, “Now.”

George stood a little taller, too. “Look yourself, lady. The last time I checked, I’m standing on city property. I have every right to be here. You don’t own this sidewalk, and you can’t stop me from making a living on it.” He glared at me, sharp eyes unblinking. “We Dollars for Change vendors are licensed, and no matter how much you don’t like us, the city says we can be here.”

“There’s no ‘us’ I don’t like,” I replied, frustrated. “It’s your dog. And you may have every right to be here, but the dog is another story. What do you think Animal Control will do if I report a vicious dog attacking people outside my store?”

George stepped back, pulling Bella closer. Seattle had the toughest dangerous dog laws in the nation. We both knew what would happen if I made that call. “You wouldn’t do that!” he said. “Bella’s never hurt anyone.”

I planted my feet stubbornly. “Try me.”

George gave me a wounded look and gathered his papers, shoulders slumped in depressed resignation. “OK, we’ll go. But I thought you yoga people were supposed to be kind.” He shuffled away, shaking his head and mumbling under his breath. Bella followed close by his side.

“Crap,” I muttered, watching their slow departure. “Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap.”
He was right. Like all good yoga teachers, I had extensively studied yoga philosophy and tried to live by it. The teachings were clear: A yogi should respond to suffering with active compassion. And George was clearly suffering, whether he realized that fact or not.

Threatening to call the cops on George’s dog may have been active, but it wasn’t all that compassionate, to him or to Bella. I felt like a cad. My solution probably wasn’t what the teachings had in mind, but it was the best I could come up with on short notice.
“Hang on there a minute!” I yelled as I ran to catch up with him. Out of breath, I said, “You’re right. I overreacted, and I’m sorry. How many papers do you have left to sell today?”

George stopped walking. When he turned to look back at me, his eyes sparkled with an unexpected hint of wry humor. “About thirty.”

The calculations weren’t difficult. I wasn’t completely broke—yet—but thirty dollars wasn’t a drop in the bucket. On the other hand, my Monday evening classes were popular, and I had to get this guy away from the front door. Mentally crossing my fingers that the toilet wouldn’t break again, I said, “Wait here. I’ll be right back.” I hurried back to the studio and grabbed thirty dollars from the cash box.

“If I buy all of your papers, will you be done for the day?”

“Yes ma’am, and that would be very kind of you.” He gave me a broad, yellow-toothed smile. “Bella and I appreciate it very much.”
He took the money, left the papers, and wandered off, whistling. Bella happily trotted behind him.

“Well, that wasn’t so difficult,” I said, patting myself on the back. “I should follow the teachings more often!” I went back inside and finished my considerably shortened practice. I chose to ignore the quiet voice in my head telling me I’d just made a huge mistake.

guestpost
I am so excited to have Tracy Weber here on Brooke Blogs today for a guest post. Yay! I am a big fan of Tracy, and I’m on her street team, so it makes me really happy to have her on my blog. Read on for her fun, informative (and adorable!) guest post, complete with pictures:

Ten years ago this month, I met the love of my life. Much to my husband’s chagrin, I’m not talking about him. The love of my life is a 100-pound, completely imperfect German shepherd named Tasha. Who could resist falling in love with this cutie?
Brooke Blogs photo 1
Not coincidentally, my protagonist is also in love (even if she doesn’t realize it at the beginning of Murder Strikes a Pose) with a hundred pound, also completely imperfect German shepherd named Bella.
Readers often ask me if Bella is my dog. I give the same answer I do when they ask if Kate is me.

No.

And yes.

Some of the funniest dog scenes in my writing come straight from Tasha’s and my life together. Some of the hardest scenes are based on stories I’ve heard from others. For the record, here’s my comparison of these two Amazing canines.

Bella and Tasha: Similarities
• Appearance: Physically, Tasha and Bella are twins. They are both gorgeous, primarily black, over one-hundred-pound female German shepherds. If they weren’t so busy taking care of their humans, they could be doggie supermodels. Don’t you agree?
Brooke Blogs photo 2
• Health: Tasha and Bella both suffer from an autoimmune disease called Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI). Bella is diagnosed early in Murder Strikes a Pose. Tasha has been living with the disease almost eight years. EPI is a lifelong condition and fatal if not treated, but with daily medication, dogs with EPI can live long, normal, happy, healthy lives.
• Personality: Both Bella and Tasha are what dog trainers call reactive, meaning that they are easily frightened, and when frightened, they try to scare the alarming thing away. This works great when they’re convincing a would-be burglar to avoid your house, not so great when they’re lunging at your neighbor’s cat. In both cases, with positive training, love, and management, they can learn to overcome their fears.
• Loyalty: Tasha’s trainers and veterinarians have all told me that Tasha would be willing to die for me. In fact, when she sees something scary, she places her body between me and the perceived menace. I’ve never known any creature, human or animal, more committed to my wellbeing. Bella is equally loyal to Kate.

Bella and Tasha: Differences
• Health: I wish I could say that EPI is Tasha’s biggest health issue. The truth is, Tasha’s EPI has been comparatively easy to manage. She also has a second autoimmune disease, four bad legs, and a bad back. She already has one artificial hip, and another may soon be in her future. I would never curse an animal, real or imaginary, with all of Tasha’s health issues. Yet there has never been a dog more loved. That has to count for something.
• Personality: Like Kate and me, Bella and Tasha have different neuroses. For example, Bella isn’t fond of men with beards, but she’s thinks cats are just great. Tasha has no problem with beards, but she is convinced that cats are Satan’s squirrels.
• Loyalty: Although Bella’s adult life will be charmed, she came from a puppyhood of abuse.

Tasha has lived with me since the day she turned eight weeks old. She has never—nor will she ever—experience harsh treatment. Believe me. I’ll see to that.
Brooke Blogs photo 3
Above all else, the two canines are loved by humans who will care for them, adore them, and prioritize their dog’s well-being over their own. In the end, what more could any pup want?

Anyone who’s ever loved an imperfect dog will identify with Kate’s struggles with Bella. Any dog who’s owned an imperfect human will identify with Bella’s struggles with Kate. Of course, the series revolves around murder, so you can bet that Kate and Bella will stumble across a dead body or two along the way.

Yoga, dogs, and murder. What could be more fun?

bookreview
Murder Strikes a Pose by Tracy Weber is the first book in the Downward Dog Mystery series. Dogs…yoga…awesome characters…this book is fabulous! I loved it from the first page to the last. Kate is a great character and I loved learning more about her and experiencing her sleuthing to try to solve the murder. This was a top notch cozy mystery. I really enjoyed the many characters, settings, and the mystery of this story. I am very excited to read the next book in this series! Murder Strikes a Pose by Tracy Weber gets 5 stars from me!

Author Bio:

My writing is an expression of the things I love best: yoga, dogs, and murder mysteries.

I’m a certified yoga teacher and the founder of Whole Life Yoga, an award-winning yoga studio in Seattle, WA. I enjoy sharing my passion for yoga and animals in any form possible.

My husband and I live with our challenging yet amazing German shepherd Tasha and our bonito flake-loving cat Maggie. When I’m not writing, I spend my time teaching yoga, walking Tasha, and sipping Blackthorn cider at my favorite local ale house.

I am a member of Sisters in Crime, The Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and the Dog Writers Association of America.

Catch Up With the Author:

Tour Participants:



book giveaway
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Rating Report
Characters
five-stars
Writing
five-stars
Pacing
five-stars
Cover
five-stars
Overall: five-stars

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6 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Thank you so much for hosting me on Brooke Blogs and letting me share a little about my own wonderful GSD, Tasha. And especially for being part of my street team!

  2. I love watching Kate’s relationship with Bella evolve. The book feels so real! Thank you for sharing both Bella and Tasha with us. As a serious dog lover I love how much you and Tasha love each other and hurt for all you go through. I almost cried with I found out that Bella have the auto immune disease and it was only after that that I discovered that Tash had it too. Thank goodness both dogs have you behind them.

    1. Thanks, Jeanie! The disease Bella–and Tasha–has is hard, but not a death sentence. And I hope to spread that information through the series. Dogs with EPI live long, happy lives!

  3. That was very intereating learning about how the real dog and the book dog compare. I have a dog Mattie who’s a mini schnauzer and she’s had a myriad of problems in her life but she still thinks shes a puppy and (she’ll be 10 at Christmas) I can’t tell you how much she means to me. When she got an acute case of pancreatitis and had to go to the “doggie hospital -24 hr urgent care” everyone thought I was crazy. She had plasma transfusions etc but she is fine now. We will always feed her special food because she can’t have any fat but she is now better than ever. Nice to be around some people who love and take special care of their dogs too.

    1. I sometimes feel sad for people who don’t understand the deep love we feel for our dogs. Most of the time, I just feel lucky! Bless you for taking such good care of your girl.

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