Diane Kelly is a former tax advisor who inadvertently worked with white-collar criminals. As Kelly puts it, she didn’t want to “end up in an orange jumpsuit,” and decided to write her “Death and Taxes” romantic mystery series. In addition to her K9 mysteries, Kelly has also written five romance novels. For this interview, Kelly revealed the story behind “Above the Paw,” her sixth Paw Enforcement mystery.
“My books are funny and written primarily for light entertainment,” Kelly said. “I do address social and personal issues to give them some depth. In ‘Above the Paw,’ I address the unfairness in our criminal justice system. The news is replete with stories of people of wealth and privilege who get away with their crimes or are so lightly punished as to make a farce of our penal system.”
Injustice in the justice system
“A few years ago, a wealthy, spoiled teenager with a blood-alcohol content three times the legal limit got behind the wheel and killed four people not far from where I live. He was given only probation on the claim that he suffered from ‘affluenza,’ a condition wherein he was purportedly unable to comprehend the potential consequences of his actions due to having lived a life of privilege.”
Diane Kelly said the case outraged those who heard about it. She added, “Celebrities, politicians, and social elites also receive disproportionately lenient judgments in some cases. It’s not fair, and it’s one of the many reasons prison reform has become a political issue.”
So, “Above the Paw” was inspired by the news headlines, but Kelly needed to put her own twist on the subject. Her version takes place on the campus of Texas Christian University (TCU) in Fort Worth, Texas.
“In recent years, several TCU students, including football players, were arrested for selling drugs. Students at many other colleges and universities have also been arrested for selling drugs to their classmates. As the mother of two college-aged kids, the easy availability of drugs on campuses caused me concern. Drugs create dangerous environments and pose risks not only to the kids who take them but to others as well. I realized a lot of readers would share my fears and find the storyline engaging.”
Three points of view
Kelly has taken an unusual approach in the Paw Enforcement mysteries. She uses three alternating viewpoints: the police officer’s, the K9’s, and the villain’s.
“The dog, Brigit, does not talk,” Kelly said. “But, readers get inside Brigit’s head and learn her thoughts. Readers routinely comment in reviews that they especially enjoy the dog’s chapters and find the alternating viewpoints to be an intriguing and effective way to tell the stories. I have a lot of fun getting into the heads of all three characters. Thinking like a criminal can be surprisingly insightful, if a little disturbing, too. I also write a funny white-collar crime series starring an IRS agent. Yep, tax evasion can be surprisingly hilarious!”
Favorite research moment
While researching K9s, Kelly attended a law enforcement K9 conference. She said seeing the officers interact with their dogs showed her the strong bond that forms between the handlers and their dogs. “My favorite part was hearing the stories of dogs’ occasional misbehavior. No matter how well-trained K9s are, the dogs do not become robots any more than human officers do. The cops talked about their dogs being distracted by squirrels or other animals, and sneakily stealing food while on duty, the same naughty things regular dogs do.”
Kelly’s favorite night of the conference showed just how “normal” K9s can be. The class was being held in a large building, which was an RV manufacturing facility. One of the handlers instructed his dog “Rocket” to find another officer who had hidden in the building.
“Rocket ignored the order and instead sprinted around the circle of students gathered around. But when he made his way to the center of the circle and squatted, we all realized why he’d been defiant. Once he’d ‘lightened his load’ in front of the full audience, he ran off to search and quickly found the hidden officer—amid a chorus of laughter.”
Learn more about Diane Kelly on her website at dianekelly.com.