At Crime Reads, this: VET’S WIFE, VET’S LIFE
While dating, I learned quickly that if we could finish our meal at a restaurant before being called out to an emergency, it was a bonus. I remember one date when we had to request our meals to go even prior to our plates being served. A dog had attacked a pony, and Charlie needed to respond immediately. The pony sustained numerous bite and slash wounds that were bleeding severely when we arrived. It took hours to clean and suture each wound, but Charlie worked patiently to piece the torn flesh back together. That pony lived, a reward in itself. …
That’s about what you expected, yes? All Creatures Great and Small, but from the wife’s perspective, more or less. This is certainly how the first part of this post reads. Then it goes off in a different direction:
In time, I sold my clinic and retired from speech therapy practice. Charlie and I had decided that I would take a year off and focus on writing. During our winter vacation, I wrote the first chapter of that nonfiction book titled Intuitive Communication, but then…I opened up a new document and wrote the first chapter of a paranormal suspense novel called Beyond the Abyss. Guess which one was more fun and even exhilarating. You guessed it. Once I tasted fiction writing, there was no going back. …
I decided to write a mystery, and again, my life as a veterinarian’s wife influenced my process. Since most people seemed to enjoy watching Charlie care for animals, I hoped that readers would like to observe a vet at work, too. Cole Walker, DVM came to me fully formed and ready to go to work on the page. I easily imagined a workaholic veterinarian whose neglected wife had left him and their daughters to fend for themselves. But even though vets might solve medical mysteries, they’re not often called on to solve murder mysteries. Soon Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo showed up on the page to help out. …
And here I am pausing to consider this backstory. Because, while I’m always happy to try a novel with a veterinarian protagonist or important secondary character, I am extremely tired of The Workaholic Protagonist Whose Wife Left Him. This is not just an unpleasant backstory, it’s also desperately cliched in murder mysteries and thrillers. There are, of course, worse variations on this theme, such as The Bitter Divorced Protagonist Who Fell Off a Cliff When His Wife Left Him and is Now a Recovering Alcoholic. Come to think of it, worse still: The Workaholic Protagonist Whose Neglected Wife Is Leaving Him Now And We Get to Watch the End of Their Marriage.
Honest to God, how about something unusual? How about, for example, the dedicated protagonist whose wife is supportive? How about THAT protagonist? He can be a detective or a veterinarian or whatever you want, but how about a supportive family and a wife who thinks his job is important and his dedication is awesome? You know what, maybe his wife has a career of her own to which SHE is dedicated and they BOTH support each other in their careers?
Wow, heads would explode all over the field of crime fiction. No no no, we have to have the dedicated male lead, the whiny wife who can’t bear that he doesn’t put her above the dying horse or kidnapped child or whatever, the acrimony, the bitterness, the divorce, and if all that’s in the backstory, then the alcoholism.
Then I go read something by Ilona Andrews because her families aren’t so unrelentingly toxic.
HOWEVER, that isn’t to say that I won’t take a look at a mystery series where the protagonist is a K9 handler and a veterinarian is an important secondary character. Here’s the debut of this mystery series, if you too find this potentially interesting.
Good reviews, many comments about the excellence of the dog character, I’m trying a sample on that basis.
But, I’m telling you, if I ever write a detective novel or a mystery of any kind, you now know what is NOT going to be in the backstory.
14 thoughts on “Veterinary mysteries”
You know what, maybe his wife has a career of her own to which SHE is dedicated and they BOTH support each other in their careers?
Like, for instance, Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane?
Yes! Like that! And I’m also thinking of one of Laura Florand’s romances where a “barrier” to the romance was how both the male lead and the female lead are deeply involved with their careers and have limited time for the other, and that is then resolved as a GOOD thing. They can both have plenty of time for their work BECAUSE the other also wants and needs to pour time into work! That’s how it ought to be! A relationship when one person hangs on another begging for attention and feeling resentful — ugh!
THANK YOU for articulating why I don’t enjoy certain genres. It’s not the plot, it’s the toxic relationships! Why CAN’T we have some good solid supportive wives/husbands/friends? I’m certain it could be done.
Julie James: clearly she is a lawyer, and most of her books have high powered women attorneys who have romances with tough FBI agents and one (of course!) Hollywood star. I love her books, and wish she hadn’t stopped writing. However, these are not mysteries with women in established relationships, just light reads.
Alison, light is fine — anything that does not follow the dynamic of dedicated male lead / whiny wife who can’t bear that she isn’t always the top priority.
Two dedicated professionals can’t be too dedicated, or they don’t have time to support each other.
I think they can both be quite dedicated, as long as they’re not actually obsessive.
Oh that sounds like it could be a fun book, though I admit I’m hesitant because I also hate the workaholic husband/resentful wife trope.
I’d like to read a James Harriot but for magical creatures book, personally. I think that would be tons of fun!
You have read Nick O’Donohue’s The Magic and the Healing, yes? Vet students on a very unusual rotation…
If you haven’t read it, you absolutely must. The other two books in the series are decent, but the first is the best imo.
I will put it on the list! I’m excited to start reading for fun again after graduation (hopefully this year).
I think you will enjoy it! My vet gave the medical parts a thumbs up. This is also one of the books that showed me how to do an intelligent, perceptive protagonist without every saying, “Look! She is perceptive and intelligent!” The protagonist of O’Donohoe’s book just IS perceptive, particularly about people’s motivations. It’s a very good book! With, alas, a terrible cover last I checked. The cover on my mass market paperback was WAY better.
Ohhh even better!! I’ll definitely let you know what I think of the protagonist (and book overall) once I read it : )
I am looking up The Magic and the Healing. Have you read Nine Goblins by T Kingfisher? One of her early novellas, with an elven veterinarian named Sings-to-Trees who is a sweetheart. Some rather disturbing/creepy magic, though
Thanks for the pointer to the Timber Creek K-9 series. I am thoroughly enjoying the series and the dog is especially delightful.
The discussion about the whiny wife who doesn’t get enough attention is thought-provoking. I think if someone feels a need for more attention from their spouse then they should be able to say so. I also realize that some professions or employers demand more time and energy than others. In any case it should be something discussed in adult terms, not whined about.
OtterB, I somehow forgot Nine Goblins even though I’ve read it and it’s my favorite of T Kingfisher’s. I’m pulling it to the top of my Kindle app right now so I can re-read it.
AND I am SO pleased about your comment regarding the Timber Creek series! That makes me much more likely to try it soon.
The whiny wife thing that bothers me is not that someone feels neglected, it’s that she feels neglected WHILE HER HUSBAND IS SAVING THE PONY, the child, the country, the world. Oh, and that she feels neglected all the time, no matter what else is going on. She has NO sense of proportion and wants to be more important than ANYTHING and I detest her. This particular trope seems maybe limited to thrillers and mysteries. I’m not sure I’ve seen it in other genres. It certainly appears in movies. Again, thrillers and mysteries. Dedicated husband working against time to save someone or something, whiny wife who storms off in a huff because he can’t make it to their date night.
And, yes, some professions involve more sudden late nights and long weeks and so on than others, and yes, that is something that everyone ought to be clear about going in. Is someone can’t bear that their partner has a job like that, then for heaven’s sake, understand that and don’t get seriously involved with someone whom you’re going to perceive as neglectful.
There are romances that handle this much, much better. I mean: the obstacle, or one big obstacle, to the romance is the job that demands all his attention. Because it’s a romance, the woman decides she can’t possibly ask this guy to give up this important job, but she can’t bear to be with him either. Because it’s a romance, the guy first thinks he can’t possibly give up that job, whatever it is. Then the woman decides she can accept the job after all and the man decides he can give up that job and take up some other equally fulfilling career and they have their heartfelt conversation in which they both give up what they thought was most important, true love triumphs, and they live happily ever after.
This pattern is WAY more appealing.
I imagine that sometimes you see this exact plot gender-swapped and that’s fine too, but I don’t think you ever see it gender-swapped in thrillers and mysteries. As far as I can tell, it’s always a dedicated husband (probably driven to drowning his loneliness in a bottle) and a whiny, selfish wife.