The Smelly Truth About Red Herrings
Before I started reading mysteries, I thought a herring was just a fish. Which of course, it is, but mysteries, especially cozy mysteries have a lot of herrings, in particular, red herrings. I’ve read a lot of mysteries over the years, but I have yet to read a mystery involving fish, especially herrings. I had to wonder, what’s the connection between herrings and mysteries? And, why are they called red herrings?
I’m not a fish lover, so I turned to Google for answers. I learned a lot about herring, too much. Don’t panic, I won’t burden you with the details. In fact, I will scale things back to prevent herring overload, by pointing out two facts. First, herring have a very strong scent (not a selling feature in my book, but to each his own). Second, herring are in the same family as Sardines (which might relate back to the first point now that I think about it). That’s pretty much all we need to know at this point. Although, I still had one other question. While, I saw a lot of pictures of herring (Atlantic herring, Pacific herring, Araucanian herring, etc), none of these were red. So, why do we call them “red herring?” Further digging provided that answer. When the herring are smoked and salted, they turn a brownish red color (who knew).
Now, let’s recap what we know. Herring is a fish which has a strong scent and turns a reddish color when smoked and salted. Yet, I still need to understand why these fish became associated with mysteries. Herring, specifically the red ones, are a big deal to the mystery enthusiasts. To the cozy mystery lover, a red herring means a lot more than a smoked fish. In mysteries, red herrings are false clues intended to challenge the reader and to divert them away from the real clues. So, why are these false clues called red herrings?
According to Wikipedia, the idiom “red herring” originated from an English journalist, William Cobbett, in 1807. As the story goes, a young Cobbett claimed to have used red herrings to train hounds to track. Apparently, he used the strong scented fish to lay a false trail for the hounds. Mystery solved. A couple hundred years later, mystery authors are still using red herrings to lay false trails and throw readers off the scent.
The Puppy Who Knew Too Much
(A Dog Club Mystery)
by V.M. Burns
About the Book
The Puppy Who Knew Too Much (A Dog Club Mystery)
2nd in Series
Lyrical Underground (February 12, 2019)
Paperback: 190 pages
Digital ASIN: B07D233MVK
Lilly Echosby and her toy poodle Aggie find a fresh start in Chattanooga, Tennessee, spoiled by the scent of murder . . .
Having solved the shooting death of her cheating husband, Lilly’s left behind the drama of Lighthouse Dunes, Indiana, to start over in the hometown of her best friend, Scarlett “Dixie” Jefferson. As she gets settled in her new rented house, Lilly gives Aggie, short for Agatha Christie, her own fresh start by enrolling her in the Eastern Tennessee Dog Club, where Dixie is a trainer.
But drama seems to hound Lilly like a persistent stray. Her cranky new neighbor appears unfamiliar with Southern hospitality and complains that Aggie barks too much and digs up his prized tulips. But what the poodle actually unearths is the buried body of a mysterious man who claimed ownership of the lost golden retriever Lilly recently rescued. Now it’s up to Lilly and Dixie to try to muzzle another murderer . . .
About the Author
V.M. Burns was born in Northwestern Indiana and spent many years in Southwestern Michigan on the Lake Michigan shoreline. She is a lover of dogs, British historic cozies, and scones with clotted cream. After many years in the Midwest, she went in search of milder winters and currently lives in Eastern Tennessee with her poodles. Her debut novel, The Plot is Murder was nominated for a 2017 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Valerie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime. Readers can learn more by visiting her website at vmburns.com
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