Conant, Susan 1946-
CONANT, Susan 1946-
PERSONAL: Born 1946; married Carter Umbarger (a clinical psychologist), 1968; children: Jessica. Education: Radcliffe College, A.B., 1968; Harvard University, Ed. D., 1978.
ADDRESSES: Home—Newton, MA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Berkley Books, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.
CAREER: Educational researcher, 1978-88; writer, 1988—. Alaskan Malamute Protection League, Massachusetts coordinator, 1988—.
MEMBER: Mystery Writers of America (member of board of directors of New England chapter), American Crime Writers League, Alaskan Malamute Club of America, Dog Writers Association of America, Sisters in Crime, New England Dog Training Club, Charles River Dog Training Club.
AWARDS, HONORS: Maxwell Award, Dog Writers Association of America, 1991, for A Bite of Death.
mystery novels; "a dog lover's mystery" series
A New Leash on Death, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 1990.
Dead and Doggone, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 1990.
A Bite of Death, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 1991.
Paws before Dying, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 1991.
Gone to the Dogs, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1992.
Bloodlines, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1992.
Ruffly Speaking, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1994.
Black Ribbon, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1995.
Stud Rites, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1996.
Animal Appetite, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1997.
The Barker Street Regulars, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1998.
Evil Breeding, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1998.
Creature Discomforts, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2000.
The Wicked Flea, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2002.
The Dogfather, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Bride & Groom, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2004.
(With Milton Budoff and Barbara Hecht) Teaching Language-Disabled Children: A Communication Games Intervention, Brookline Books (Cambridge, MA), 1983.
Financial Management Course Manual, Life Management Institute (Atlanta, GA), 1987.
Living with Chronic Fatigue: New Strategies for Coping with and Conquering CFS, Taylor Publishing (Dallas, TX), 1990.
(With others) Managing for Solvency and Profitability in Life and Health Insurance Companies, Life Management Institute (Atlanta, GA), 1996.
Financial Aspects of Annuities, LOMA (Atlanta, GA), 2000.
Capital Management for Insurance Companies, LOMA (Atlanta, GA), 2001.
Product Design for Life Insurance and Annuities, LOMA (Atlanta, GA), 2001.
Contributor to DOGWorld and American Kennel Gazette; editor of Pawprint.
SIDELIGHTS: Susan Conant is the author of both nonfiction and fiction books, but it is her mystery series about a female detective and her two Alaskan Malamute dogs for which she is best known. Conant's mystery novels feature Holly Winter, a dog trainer and columnist for Dog's Life Magazine, who happens to stumble into mysteries no matter where she goes. Flanked by her two canine companions, Winter is described by a critic for Publishers Weekly as a "witty, independent, yet fallible sleuth with inordinate pride in her two Alaskan Malamutes." Winter's adventures typically take place in the worlds of dog breeding, dog shows, and a wide assortment of other dog-related venues.
Among the earliest novels in the "Dog Lover's Mystery" series are A New Leash on Death, Dead and Doggone, Paws before Dying, and A Bite of Death, for which she won the Maxwell Award from the Dog Writers Association of America. In Gone to the Dogs, Winter investigates the disappearance of a renowned veterinarian named Oscar Patterson. Similar to other books in Conant's series, the novel mixes a great deal of dog-related information with the actual mystery. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted, "Conant infuses her writing with a healthy dose of humor."
In Bloodlines, Winter investigates a pet shop owner who has turned up dead, only to discover the man was in the business of purchasing puppies from a puppy mill. Amidst the investigation, Conant details the horror and inhumanity of puppy mills. A critic for Publishers Weekly commented that the "suspense is tighter here than in many previous Conant mysteries, and her polemics add a welcome bite. Paws up."
Winter continues her sleuthing in Ruffly Speaking, Black Ribbon, and Stud Rites. After a bookseller/cafe keeper is poisoned and the hearing dog of an Episcopal priest begins having unexplained seizures in Ruffly Speaking, Winter becomes suspicious and investigates. The action in Black Ribbon takes place at a dog retreat called Waggin' Tail, where Winter and her canine companions find themselves investigating the murder of a woman named Eva. In Stud Rites, Winter is covering an Alaskan Malamute dog show in Massachusetts when the owner of a prize stud dog is murdered. Soon, one of the show's judges is also killed, and Winter must track down the killer among the show's participants. A critic for Publishers Weekly called Stud Rites "a frisky look at mayhem unleashed."
A Publishers Weekly critic called Animal Appetite an "engrossing mystery" where Winter's Alaskan Malamutes "steal every scene." Not surprisingly, dogs are central to this mystery, in which Winter examines the eighteen-year-old unsolved death of a publisher named Jack Andrews. Uncertain whether the death was murder or suicide, Winter unravels the mystery with the help of her doggie detectives.
The Barker Street Regulars takes Winter to a local nursing home where her dog is being trained to be a companion to the elderly. She befriends one of the patients, a Sherlock Holmes buff, and the pair is called upon to investigate a psychic who claims to be able to reunite patients with their deceased pets. "Conant," remarked a critic for Publishers Weekly, "cleverly incorporates Holmes and Watson lore into her plot and writes eloquently of what it is like to lose a beloved pet." Once the story is underway, according to John Rowen in Booklist, "it displays an agreeable mix of appealing characters, well-realized setting, and snappy dialogue."
Conant continued the series with Evil Breeding and Creature Discomforts. In Creature Discomforts Winter suffers a case of amnesia after she falls down the side of a mountain. The Wicked Flea, according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, is "a fun, fast-paced outing." Winter, still recovering from her head trauma in the previous novel, searches for clues in the murder of Sylvia Metzner, the owner of a mean golden retriever. The critic noted, "Holly remains an independent, witty, and delightful protagonist." "Committed fans of Conant's popular canine cozy series will be delighted," the reviewer concluded.
Conant employs the ever-popular mob setting in the novel The Dogfather. Winter reluctantly finds herself working for Massachusetts's leading crime boss, Enzio Guarini, as a dog trainer. When Guarini's sidekick is murdered, Winter is once again tangled in a mystery, only this time, the FBI is involved. A Kirkus Reviews writer described the book as entertaining and witty, and dubbed it "a must" for dog lovers. Following The Dogfather, Conant wrote Bride & Groom. In the novel, Winter prepares for her wedding to her veterinarian/fiancé Steve Delaney. Amidst her preparations, Winter investigates a series of murders in which all of the victims have a connection to her. Booklist reviewer Jenny McLarin called the book more of a "tail-wagger" than a "page turner." "The plot's not as well-behaved as the dogs," noted a Kirkus Reviews writer, "but there's not a cat-writer around with Conant's wit and breezy sophistication." In a review published on the Books 'n' Bytes Web site, Harriet Klausner maintained that Conant "always writes an excellent who-done-it."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Heising, Wiletta L., Detecting Women: A Reader's Guide and Checklist for Mystery Series Written by Women, Purple Moon Press (Dearborn, MI), 1994.
Booklist, February 1, 1998, p. 902; April 15, 1999, John Rowen, review of Evil Breeding, p. 1470; April 1, 2000, Jenny McLarin, review of Creature Discomforts, p. 1438; January 1, 2004, Jenny McLarin, review of Bride & Groom, p. 829.
Boston Magazine, May, 1997, p. 58.
Drood Review of Mystery, January, 2001, review of Creature Discomforts, p. 17.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1999, review of Evil Breeding, p. 417; January 15, 2002, review of The Wicked Flea, p. 75; January 1, 2003, review of The Dogfather, p. 28; December 15, 2003, review of Bride & Groom, p. 1424.
Kliatt, May, 2003, Janet Julian, review of The Wicked Flea, p. 15.
Library Journal, February 1, 1998, Rex E. Klett, review of The Barker Street Regulars, p. 116; February 1, 1999, review of The Barker Street Regulars, p. 148.
Publishers Weekly, May 25, 1992, review of Gone to the Dogs, p. 40; October 26, 1992, review of Bloodlines, p. 58; December 12, 1994, review of Black Ribbon, p. 53; May 27, 1996, review of Stud Rites, p. 69; February 3, 1997, review of Animal Appetite, p. 97; February 23, 1998, review of The Barker Street Regulars, p. 55; March 29, 1999, review of Evil Breeding, p. 95; February 25, 2002, review of The Wicked Flea, p. 46; January 20, 2003, review of The Dogfather, p. 61; January 12, 2004, review of Bride & Groom, p. 41.
School Library Journal, August, 2000, Pam Johnson, review of Creature Discomforts, p. 212.
Best Reviews Web site, http://thebestreviews.com/ (March 10, 2003), Harriet Klausner, review of The Wicked Flea.
Books 'n' Bytes Web site, http://www.booksnbytes.com/ (March 10, 2003), Harriet Klausner, reviews of The Wicked Flea, Creature Discomforts, and The Dogfather.*