Who Put The Dog In My Cozy?

It’s a well known fact that dogs are the best, smartest, best – oops, I already said best – greatest animals on the planet. (FYI -it won’t do you any good to argue this point with me)

Dogs are so awesome they can even solve crimes! K9 units play a vital role along side law enforcement in the investigation of criminal activity. Dogs have become indispensable tools for investigators when expensive detection equipment have proven to be useless or unsuitable to get the job done.

What makes a dog so important in crime solving? Their nose, of course!

Would you be impressed with five million scent cells working a crime scene? Sorry, that’s not enough to accomplish the task. Five million is the average number of scent cells a human may have. Now, let’s go back to the scene of the crime with three-hundred million olfactory receptors. Yep, you read that right – THREE-HUNDRED MILLION!

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A dog’s incredible sense of smell goes far beyond a measly three-hundred million scent cells. God gave dogs a little something extra that we mere mortals don’t have. Dogs have an organ in the roof of their mouths that basically allow them to “taste” a smell. As a human, I’m not so sure that would always be beneficial, but for a dog involved in a criminal investigation – priceless.

Another amazing fact about a dog’s sense of smell: they can smell in 3-D. Each nostril can smell independently from the other. A dog’s brain will use the separate smells they pick up to develop a “profile” of the odor to help them determine where the smell can be found. This is why investigators use articles of clothing or other personal items that carry the target scent for dogs to sniff before they take off to track it down.

Investigators use dogs in several areas of investigation.

  • Drug Detection
  • Explosives Detection
  • Arson Investigation
  • Search and Rescue (living survivors)
  • Cadaver Dogs (deceased victims)

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Detection dogs are trained to work in one specific area of detection. These highly trained K9s build a strong bond with their handlers. They work together, aiding each other in the search for any clues that will lead to the conclusion of the crime.

Dogs are just one more reason to love reading cozy mysteries. Dogs (ok, and cats) are beloved characters in many cozy mystery series. Some of these canine characters are loyal companions of our favorite amateur sleuths, while others aid their owners in the actual solving of crimes.

In her Domestic Diva series, author Krista Davis gave her main character, Sophie Winston, a rescued hound mix named Daisy. Daisy has lead Sophie to a few bodies throughout the series.

Krista Davis also writes the Paws and Claws mystery series set in a dog lovers dream: the pet-friendly town of Wagtail, Virginia. When murder runs rampant in Wagtail, you can count of Holly Miller and her rambunctious Jack Russell named Trixie, and a cat named Twinkletoes to get to the bottom of the crime.

Ellery Adams is author of the Books by the Bay series. Her protagonist, Olivia Limoges, has a standard poodle named Captain Haviland. The Captain has been Olivia’s superhero, attacking evil murderers to save her from certain death.

These are just two of my favorite authors with cozy series that include dogs in their list of characters. Dogs (yes, yes, cats too) offer an addition layer of “connection” the cozy author uses to build a relationship with their readers.

God truly blessed this world when He created a dog. If you will allow me to be corny – dog spelled backwards isGod. He knew we would need these wonderful, lovable, intelligent companions in our lives.

“So God created the great creatures…And He saw that it was good.” Genesis 1

 

 

 

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Chocolate, Stress, and a Cozy Mystery

Let’s face it, life is hard. Stress is one of those “certain” things we just can’t avoid. From the moment the alarm goes off in the morning until we crawl back into bed, stress happens. Count on it.

We’ve heard it before:

“What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.”

“Don’t stress over things you can’t change.”

“Whenever you’re stressed, eat chocolate.”

Okay, I really like that last one, but you just can’t eat chocolate all day. Well, I guess you could, but it’s not the best way to handle stress. You would only belabor all the weight you gain.

Life wakes up with those everyday things that stress us, but, we all face times of monumental stress. Situations apart from the ordinary.

Be it everyday stress or one of those overwhelming places in life, we need a way to de-stress. A way to step out of the path of the everyday – and the agonizing. But how do we do that?

We could drink tea. It’s true that tea does reduce the stress hormone cortisol. Studies show that drinking black tea helps us to de-stress more quickly.

Now, back to the chocolate. Studies also show that dark chocolate can improve your mood by increasing serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain. Of course, science is going to tell us to consume only dark chocolate. Me, well, I personally want chocolate in it’s “milk” form. You know, as in Dove Milk Chocolate, or maybe Godiva Milk Chocolate Truffles.

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Like you, I have been through traumatic and agonizing places in life. While tea and chocolate are helpful additions to a “de-stressing” routine, my best advice is a good book.

As you may have guessed by now, my recommendation is going to be a fun, quirky cozy mystery. I love reading cozies. Let me give you a few reasons why cozy mysteries are the perfect de-stresser:

  • A Short Escape From Reality

A get-away from stress and trouble is always welcome. Opening the pages of a good book is an excellent way to close the door on our anxiety, even if only for a short time. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “A good book, yes of course. But why a cozy mystery specifically?” Well, let’s take a look at that!

  • Location, Location, Location

The setting of a modern cozy mystery isn’t always a small town or village. It can be a beauty salon, a bakery, a newspaper office, a day spa, a church fellowship group, or even a retirement home. The setting gives the book’s characters a place to hang out, gossip, discuss clues and suspects, have coffee or eat dinner together. It’s the same with the reader. This setting gives a reader the comfy, cozy feeling of familiarity and friendship. A closeness to “people” that are separate from what is going on in their life.

  • The “No-Drama” Drama

A cozy mystery does have some drama. There is a murder, and our amateur sleuth will face challenge after challenge on their journey to unmask the killer. The murder in a cozy will not be gory, nor will it be overwhelmingly dark or heavy emotionally. As I have explained in a previous post, the murder will take place “off page”. Cozies will have a fun plot and story the reader will enjoy getting lost in.

  • The Thrill of Victory

Have you ever worked a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle? One with a lot of sky or mountains that makes it difficult to work because the pieces look alike with similar colors? When you read a cozy, it’s like you’re working a puzzle. You follow the clues and try to determine which ones are the corner and side pieces that outline the crime, and which pieces are red herrings that fit into the little overturned bucket on the porch of the cabin in the puzzle mountain scene. Grrr…you thought those pieces were part of the mountain. Those red herrings will get you sometimes!! But isn’t it a great feeling when you put the last piece in the puzzle? You raise you arms in victory with a shout of, “Yeah!” That’s the feeling you get reading a cozy and you decide who the killer is, get to the final “reveal” and you are RIGHT!! Wow, now that’s an escape from reality!

Cozies are incredible stress relievers. For me, I know and believe that my ultimate peace and rest comes completely from God.

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” 1 Peter 5: 7
“For You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.” Psalm 61: 3

How wonderful that He has also given us the creativity to write books and stories that open a world of fun, relief, and rest.

I think I’ll brew a cup of tea, open a box of truffles, grab a good cozy mystery and de-stress!!

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Join the conversation!! What do you do to de-stress? What books do you go to for an escape?

 

 

 

 

 

And Then There Was…Murder

  • “Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow upon them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence, or Act of God?”
  • “Do you solemnly swear never to conceal a vital clue from the reader?”
  • “Do you promise to observe a seemly moderation in the use of Gangs, Conspiracies, Death-Rays, Ghosts, Hypnotism, Trap-Doors, Chinamen, Super-Criminals and Lunatics; and utterly and forever to forswear Mysterious Poisons unknown to Science?” (note: the mention of “Chinamen” was included as a criticism to the use racial cliches prevalent in 1920s English writing)
  • “Will you honour the King’s English?”

This is the oath of The Detection Club, circa 1929.

I don’t know about you, but I like the occasional “Mumbo Jumbo” and “Jiggery-Pokery”. And who doesn’t love a good “Death-Ray”?

The Detection Club was formed by a group of British mystery writers, which included such greats as Agatha Christie, G.K. Chesterton, and Dorothy L. Sayers. The group was formed to help their members with the technical aspects of their writing, and to follow a set of guidelines that give the reader a “fair chance” at figuring out the guilty party. Some have called the group more of a “dinner club”. I guess even writers will use any excuse to get together to eat…and have unusual initiation ceremonies that involve stroking a skull and swearing oaths. It may sound a bit ominous, but it’s all playful antics as the food and drink flow.

The Detection Club had a list of guidelines to be followed in the writing of mysteries and detective novels. While some writers may not have taken all the guidelines as seriously as others, they did adhere to proper technical writing.

The Ten Commandants of “whodunits” were written and codified by Ronald Knox in 1929. In the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, mysteries were considered a game…and games must have rules, henceforth, Knox’s “Ten Commandments”. According to Knox, any good detective story:

“must have as its main interest the unravelling of a mystery; a mystery whose elements are clearly presented to the reader at an early stage in the proceedings, and whose nature is such as to arouse curiosity, a curiosity which is gratified at the end.”

Thank you, Ronald Knox! If you are a lover of cozies, or mysteries in general, this statement still holds true for the reader.

The influence of The Golden Age of Detective Fiction is reflected today mostly in the form of “cozy mysteries”. These are distinct from other mystery forms such as suspense, thrillers, or those written in a hard-nose noir style. Today we may very well find cozy mysteries written with a supernatural slant, a conspiracy along the way, and you may come across a ghost or two.

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The cozy mystery is still a game, enticing the reader to follow the clues and motives, pick suspects, and come to the conclusion of who the killer is based on the intricate details woven within a story full of fun and great characters.

While the cozy mysteries of today may not observe all of the rules set forth by The Detection Club – the forerunner to groups such as Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, American Crime Writers League, and others – they do continue to give us all the intrigue and gratifying endings readers want and expect.

I’m still looking for the perfect way to work a death-ray into one of my stories!

Here are Knox’s “Ten Commandments”, how do you think they line-up with the cozy mysteries of today?

  1. The criminal must be mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to know.
  2. All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.
  3. Not more than one secret room or  passage is allowable.
  4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
  5. No Chinaman must figure in the story. (again, the mention of “Chinamen” was included as a criticism to racism)
  6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
  7. The detective himself must not commit the crime.
  8. The detective is bound to declare any clues which he may discover.
  9. The “sidekick” of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal from the reader any thoughts which pass through his mind: his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.
  10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.

 

 

 

The Comfy Cozy Mystery

Murder. Mayhem. Clues, Suspects, and Lies. A red herring or two. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Throw in an amateur sleuth, a small charming town or village, a cast of eccentric characters, a victim, and you have a cozy mystery.

Sound a little like Cabot Cove? Jessica Fletcher and Murder, She Wrote is an iconic picture of what a cozy mystery is. Cozies focus on plot and character development; they are like a puzzle you can’t stop working.

I love a good mystery. Mysteries are all around us, in many different forms. Just this morning it was a mystery to me where all the coffee went. I mean, it’s morning, I need coffee. Did someone sneak in and steal all my coffee? Did I forget to buy coffee? Did I drink all the coffee without realizing it was now gone? Would someone be killed because there is no coffee? No coffee could be motive. I questioned my husband and my son, but they claimed to know nothing about my coffee. No, there can only be one suspect in this mystery – me. I’m the only one in my house who drinks coffee. Well, unless my mom is visiting, and I would never accuse her of such a nefarious crime. Besides, she always comes to my house bearing gifts of the delightful roasted beans.

To some people, it may seem that a cozy mystery is like drinking decaf, but cozies have twists and turns, the unexpected, and those nasty little “red herrings” to throw you off. No, cozies are full-caff, exciting fun.

There’s nothing like following along with our nosy heroine, or hero, as they gather clues, rub people the wrong way with their questions and accusations, and get their side-kicks in all kinds of trouble, or vice versa – all done as they doggedly pursue the killer. The fun is in solving the crime, getting to the end of the book and finding you were right! DING, DING, DING – weekend satisfaction complete!

29542109_10209258781347040_10385856382250632_n - Version 2A murder does occur. But, traditionally, there is little to no actual violence in a cozy. The murder takes place off the pages of the book, and is only mildly described, with a sparing amount of blood and gore. Again, the focus is on plot and solving the “puzzle”.

Our want-to-be detective will have a connection to the local sheriff or police. It may be a family member on the police force, a spouse, or close friend affiliated with local law enforcement. But whatever form, our clever bloodhound will have a way to get the scoop on some important clues for their investigation.

Another thing about cozies is that – again, I’ll say traditionally – there is no…er…sex. Well, at least not explicit…um…sex. No, any…sex…is generally implied. This means I can share my cozy mysteries with my mom, my aunts, or my church friends, without any embarrassment or questions like, “What kind of books are you giving me?” (Of course, these days, this rule isn’t completely, strictly adhered to with all cozy authors, and there may be some subdued descriptive scenes)

Also, generally, profanity is nonexistent, or held to a minimum. But, times they are a’changing. You may come across the occasional bad language.

While there are some cozies written with a male protagonist, our amateur sleuth is usually a woman. I have nothing against female sleuths, but, I would like to see more strong male characters in this lead role.

It’s true that classic cozies are set in a captivating small town or village. The reality is that today small towns are vanishing, so modern cozies may tend to use something like a bakery or bookstore as the setting. This allows our cast of characters a common place to be together and build relationships…and solve murders!

Cozies are fun, quirky, engaging, and entertaining. As a reader, you can’t wait to get back to characters that feel like friends, and the little town that feels like home.

Of course, there are all those pesky murders.

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Have a favorite cozy author or series? I would love to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

The Mystery of the Killer Letters

Agatha Christie did it. Sue Grafton did it. They wrote murder mysteries using the alphabet. Fiction, gratefully.

True crime instances of alphabet murders exist. Sadly.

I love reading a good mystery, and Christie and Grafton gave us some great reads using the alphabet. But for me, there are four letters of the alphabet that bring fear, anger, and sadness.

Anyone who knows me knows I love my dogs. I have an enduring affection for Pomeranians. For me, there’s no better breed, and they have the best, biggest fluffy tails ever. Ever.

Well, most Pomeranians have big fluffy tails. Not mine. She doesn’t have her big fluffy tail because of those four letters that I hate.

Yeah, I know, hate is a strong word. Believe me, it fits. These four letters are killers. I know this personally.

IMHA. If you are a dog (or cat) owner, you should fear these letters. They stand for Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia and they have left countless numbers of four-legged family members dead in their wake. Many are gone within hours of their owners learning of this disease.

IMHA is an autoimmune disease that sneaks up like a serial killer. Seemingly to kill at random, without warning.

What, exactly, is IMHA? The condensed answer is your pet’s immune system no longer recognizes their red blood cells as normal, but sees them as an invading marauder. The immune system ramps up and begins destroying them. Rapidly. Even if the disease is caught early and appropriate treatment given, it can be fatal.

I have personal experience with IMHA. On July 21, 2013, my beautiful Little Ali Sunshine was diagnosed with this killer. My life changed in the reading of a blood test. So did Ali’s.

Dealing with this disease is a daily emotional roller coaster. Our life became constant trips to the vet, blood transfusions, a medicinal cocktail of different steroids several times a day, and blood tests. Over and over, we took blood tests.

In the beginning, we were at our specialist’s office almost everyday. Over the next months, we were thrilled if we only went three or four times a week. Some of our appointments were scheduled, most were emergency visits. Red cell counts would be up one day, but then, drop the next. The effects on the body from the use of the powerful drugs in the treatment of IMHA are frightening.

Ali at NGVS

On February 6, 2014, my life fell deeper into the IMHA hole. Ali’s littermate brother, our handsome, goofy Ty Beau, was also diagnosed with this monster.

We’ve all said it, or thought it…’like hell on earth’. There are really no other words that adequately describe the feeling. I was now dealing with two dogs battling a disease with a fifty to seventy percent fatality rate.

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We did everything we were told to do, everything we could. Ali had been the runt of the litter, and I feared she wouldn’t be able to fight this beast. But, she did great. Sixteen months after diagnosis, she was off all medication, and six months later, our specialists said the one word I was praying to hear…remission. She remains in remission.

The journey didn’t take us down the same road with Ty. His body didn’t cope well with the treatments. He developed multiple conditions such as pancreatitis, an ulcer, and diabetes. In the end, it was his heart that gave out. We lost our precious Ty Beau on February 6, 2015, one year to the day he was diagnosed. He was only five years old. I can’t tell you how much it still hurts.

It’s been difficult to let go of the pain…I don’t think I ever will.

What is the cause behind this horrid disease? That is the mystery. It’s a complicated condition with no clear answers. Triggers at the top of the list include vaccinations, toxins, especially Zinc toxicity, as well as underlying causes like cancer. For most, the cause is never known.

I write this in the hope it will educate and inform. Here are some of the symptoms you can watch for:

  • Weakness/Collapsing (this was one of the first symptoms with Ty and Ali)
  • Lethargy
  • Pale Gums (This is a quick easy check)
  • Jaundice
  • Loss of Appetite (this was one of the first symptoms with Ty and Ali)
  • Panting or difficulty breathing

I would like to be able to tell you that I have no more worries with Ali, but the truth is, relapse is possible. I check her gums everyday to make sure they are nice and pink. We still see our specialist every few months. Ali will be on Enalapril (an ACE inhibitor) for her heart, and thyroid medication for life. She has Alopecia (hair loss) after her battle, but not having the characteristic Pomeranian poof and big fluffy tail doesn’t change how much I love her.

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If you are a pet owner, my advice is knowledge. Know the symptoms, know your dog. Act quickly if you notice any of the above symptoms. Knowledge and quick action could mean the difference between life and death with IMHA.

This link will give you much needed information: IMMUNE MEDIATED HEMOLYTIC ANEMIA (IMHA)

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The Irrational Mystery

It happened on a dark, dreary night…laundry night.

Okay, it wasn’t really a dreary night, just laundry night. But you have to admit, laundry night is its own kind of dreary.

Everything was going along as usual, move one load to the dryer, put another load into the washer. I was folding my first load out of the dryer when it happened. I wasn’t looking for trouble, but hey, laundry can be trouble all by itself.

Somewhere between the endless number of tee-shirts and gym shorts, I realized there was only one. I was missing a sock. I’m no novice at doing laundry, so one missing sock was nothing to be alarmed about. It had to be mixed in with another load, or caught in one of those tee-shirts. Maybe it was lying in the bottom of my hamper.

And so the search began. Shaking all the tee-shirts, spinning the drum of the dryer. When the washer stopped, taking each item out, one at a time, and giving them a shake before they went into the dryer. I made the trip back to the hamper. No sock-mate to be found.

After following my initial search pattern a second time with no success, I moved on to other obvious places: under the bed, between the sofa cushions (just in case I pulled my socks off while lounging around), the dog bed. Nothing.

Retracing my steps a third time, I was in a full-on frenzy. I started looking everywhere without discretion. Under lampshades, in the pantry, in plants, in the garage. I even looked in the freezer. No sock.

I was a mess by this time. All I could do was turn my bedroom and closet upside down. I turned things over, dumping the contents on the floor. I emptied drawers and pulled the covers off my bed. I went through my bathroom cabinets. I looked in every nook and cranny fearing the sock was lost, never to be found. But, standing in my closet, hopelessly looking around, I spied it: my sock! My lost, now found sock. Caught under the corner of my husbands hamper.

Overwhelmed with relieved, I grabbed my sock, fell on the floor and broke out bawling! I managed to close my closet door, lest everyone in the house come running. But my emotions wouldn’t stay quiet, and the tears came. Irrational tears.

I know what you’re thinking, it was a sock, one silly sock. Nothing to lose yourself over. I get that, and normally I would agree with you. But this pair of socks were different.

They were different because of my dad.

I had been at my parents house visiting for a weekend to attend a wedding. I had spent the morning packing my car, getting ready to head home. We knew Dad wasn’t feeling well, and when his home healthcare nurse came for her regular check, she called 9-1-1. Dad  was taken to the hospital by ambulance. He ended up being in the hospital for several months. I didn’t leave, but stayed to help Mom and be with Dad. I only had a few outfits with me, and as fall eased into winter, temperatures turned cold and I had to get a few items.

I needed socks. I chose these socks because of Dad. He loved my dogs. I only had one dog at the time, but he especially loved her. My socks had little doggie paw prints that I thought Dad would like. Every time I put them on, I think of Dad. You see, my dad passed away while he was in the hospital. I didn’t realize how much those socks meant to me…until I thought one was lost.

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It’s funny what we cherish without even knowing it. I have plenty of other socks, but this pair is special. I searched high and low for the one sock that was lost.

The Bible tells of a shepherd who lost one sheep. He left his ninety nine other sheep to find the one. When the lost sheep was found, he called his friends and neighbors to come and celebrate with him.

Celebrate because the one was found. God does that. He celebrates with all of heaven when even one lost soul is found.

What do you cherish that you would search high and low to find?

 

The Good Book Mystery

THE CLUES:
A stormy weekend
Multiple cups of coffee
iPhone set to “Do Not Disturb”
Piles of ignored laundry
A good book

THE SUSPECT:
Me

WHAT HAPPENED:
An entire weekend was murdered. While wrapped in her snuggie, the suspect stayed curled on the sofa reading…whittling away minutes, then hours, until the entire weekend was gone. Extinguished.

THE VERDICT:
GUILTY!

In my defense, not only was the weekend stormy, it was cold and foggy. The gray, bleak kind of weekend that is perfect for a mystery. Wiping out a weekend with a good book, well, let’s just say this wasn’t my first offense. It was a crime of weather, with extenuating circumstances…Coffee. I couldn’t stop myself.

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Killing off a weekend with a good book can be a cozy way to  slip away from reality. Books are an escape. They color our lives with the excitement of new places, new friends, and stories. They fuel our imagination. They teach us.

Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, most people have that one book, the one book that makes a lasting impression. Some books leave a spiritual impact; some help bring emotion healing, or point their audience in a new direction. Other books leave their readers with a lingering sense of adventure that can be recalled over a lifetime.

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For me, my one book is a strange one, I must admit. It’s not because of its powerful prose or great literary significance. My one book is more about the visual it created. I was a young mother trying to raise my son to live a Godly life. Teaching him right from wrong. Teaching him to stay away from sin.

I’ve had muliple discussions about this topic with friends and family over the years, and I consistently get, “Really? That’s your favorite book?” I always have to stipulate that it’s not necessarily about it being my favorite as much as it’s about the lasting visual impact the book left.

At this point, I’m sure you’re just dying to know what it is, right? Okay. Drum roll please……and the winner is: The Oath by Frank Peretti.

I told you it was a strange one. You might have to read the book for yourself to understand the impact it made on me. The Oath is part allegory, a horror and suspense book basically about what sin does when it “hooks” us. Frank Peretti paints a frightful picture of sin hooking its victims, weaving its way into their hearts. Before long, sin overtakes them, turns them dark inside, and starts to ooze out of them in a black slime. It’s disgusting and stinks, sticking to everything they touch, but they don’t even see it. Everyone around them sees it and smells it, but the victim is so consumed, they laugh and sing their way to their own doom. Scary stuff.

I can’t tell you why this book made such a lasting impression on me. It wasn’t the first horror book I had ever read. Maybe it was because I was trying to raise my son to be a Godly man, or maybe because I was committed to keeping myself away from sin. Probably both.

Peretti uses Genesis 4:7 in one scene where the only man in town who understands what is going on is trying to steer the books protagonist toward God, “…Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” Those are words to remember and imprint on our hearts.

While I’ve killed off many weekends with a good book, very few have been books I’ve carried in my heart through the years. I did pass my one book on to my son. I can’t say that it’s his one book, but we’ve talked about it, and it definitely made an impression on him, one I pray will keep his eyes open to sin crouching at the door of his heart.