All Honey the Great Dane ever wanted was a peaceful life – walking her human, checking Peemail at the park – but the arrival of a puppy named Bean turns her life upside down. Then Bean goes missing, together with other neighbourhood pups, and Honey sets out on a dangerous quest to find them. Joined by her canine friends, Honey tackles sinister paw prints and mysterious hieroglyphics as clues lead them to a deserted cemetery. But an ancient Egyptian curse has awakened and time is running out… Can Honey solve a cryptic riddle in time to save the pups? And should she trust Max, a Pit Bull with a murky past, who is hiding secrets of his own?
Kids and dog lovers will love this action-packed mystery filled with suspense and humour! (Age: 9+)
Targeted Age Group: 9 years +
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I was an absolute Nancy Drew maniac when I was young – collected every book in that series – and generally devoured mystery stories. I also loved animal fantasies – books written from the animal’s point of view, such as Watership Down by Richard Adams and Bambi (the original by Felix Salten, not the Disney version!) – so I decided to create my own mystery series, told from the animal’s perspective. And I wanted to include all the things I loved as a child – such as riddles and secret passages and mysterious puzzles – all wrapped up in a fast-paced adventure.
The main character in the series is inspired by my own Great Dane, Honey, who has a very popular blog that’s been going for about 5 years now, with a large, worldwide fanbase. CURSE OF THE SCARAB (Book #1) is the first in the series and yes, I’m planning many more! Each book in the series is a standalone mystery adventure, rather than a sequel – although each will feature the same key characters – and every story will revolve around a certain dog myth or legend.
An old house stood on the far side of the clearing, surrounded by weeds and overgrown bushes. Barbed wire snaked along the ground around it and an old sign hung from a rope across the front door. Its surface was scratched and faded, but Honey could just make out the words: DANGER! KEEP OUT!
“It’s a human place,” said Suka in a hushed voice. “Though it looks like nobody’s been here for a long time.”
Honey followed her gaze up to the darkened windows, many smashed and gaping open, the glass shards forming jagged rows along the window frames. It gave the disturbing illusion of many mouths with rows of teeth, all open towards them. Honey shivered.
They went forwards slowly across the clearing, their paws sinking in the damp grass. Despite the brightness of the moon above, the night seemed to close around them like a thick glove. Honey felt the hairs along her back stand up, and she could see both Tyson’s and Ruffster’s hackles bristling too.
They paused just outside the front door and pricked their ears, listening. There was nothing except the faint chirp of crickets in the woods behind them and somewhere closer, the tup-tup-tup of water dripping.
“I don’t like this place.” Biscuit shivered.
“It’s just a stupid old house,” said Ruffster. He dropped the scarab he had been carrying and raised his nose to sniff the air. “Don’t smell anythin’.”
“The wind’s in the wrong direction,” said Biscuit, looking around uneasily. “It’s blowing our scent towards the house but we can’t smell anything from inside.”
Ruffster gave an impatient growl. “Well, I’m not scared o’ a bunch o’ cats.” He approached the front windows. Tyson picked up the dropped scarab and they reluctantly followed him. They watched as Ruffster hitched his paws up against the wall and stood up on his hind legs to look into one of the broken windows.
He dropped back to the ground, disappointed. “Nothin’.” He looked up at the house again, then let out a couple of loud barks.
“Ruffster!” hissed Suka. “What are you doing?”
He turned to Suka in disgust. “There’s no one here,” he said. “Reckon it’s just some dumb story after all. There’s this old house sittin’ here, so they start makin’ up stuff about a feral cat colony.”
“No,” said Suka, looking around nervously. “It’s not just a made-up story.”
“Well, where are all the cats, then?” said Ruffster. “There’s not so much as a sniff o’ a hairball. I can’t believe we’re standin’ here scared—for kibble’s sake, we’re dogs, remember? Cats run from us!”
Biscuit made a funny sound, his nose quivering, and looked up. The others all raised their heads as well. On the roof above them, several dark shapes appeared. They stood like statues, silhouetted against the night sky, long tails flicking. Then, one by one, they dropped like plummeting shadows to the ground and encircled the dogs, their eyes glittering.
Ten dark wraiths surrounded them, silent, waiting. The moonlight gleamed on their pelts, showing them not to be solid black, but thickly striped and marbled. They’re all tabbies, Honey thought, her mind scrabbling like a wild animal and clutching on to that irrelevant fact. Then she saw something else that made her breath catch in her throat. Their claws. Each cat unsheathed a set of claws that curved like wicked talons.
“Oh my Dog,” squeaked Biscuit, staring at the claws. “There’s blood on them!”
Honey followed his gaze and saw the dark red tips of some of the claws. Her stomach clenched. She felt the others stiffen beside her. The dogs edged closer together, rumps touching, facing out towards the ring of cats.
“Tyson, you speak Cat,” whispered Suka. “Ask them what they want.”
Tyson dropped the scarab beetle he had been carrying and eyed the claws. “Ya don’t need to know Cat to know what they’re thinking,” he muttered.
“P…please,” Honey said, her voice quavering. “We’re not here to make trouble. We need your help.”
The cats said nothing. They sat, staring, extending and retracting those terrible claws, their tails flicking occasionally. It was unnerving.
“This is stupid,” growled Ruffster. “Told you—there’s only one way to deal with these fleabags!” And he rushed at one of the cats, barking loudly in its face.
The big grey tabby didn’t even flinch. Ruffster faltered, suddenly unsure. He’d met cats who ran and he’d met cats who hissed and spat in his face, but he’d never before met a cat who did nothing but stare. His tail dropped between his legs and he scrambled to retreat, whining in confusion. As he pushed his way back into the huddle of dogs, one paw knocked against the dead scarab, kicking it outwards. The beetle skidded out into the open space and moonlight fell on the shiny black shell, picking out tones of purple and blue and making the scarab look for a moment more like a sinister jewel than a dead beetle.
The effect on the cats was electrifying. They sprang up, their eyes on the scarab, their ears flattened and whiskers quivering. Their smooth tabby coats were now spiked and bristling.
“Where did you get that?” The grey tabby hissed.
He reached forwards but Honey was quicker. Before anyone realised what she was doing, she had lunged forwards to stand over the scarab. The iridescent sheen of the black shell disappeared under her huge Great Dane paw. She looked up, straight into the green eyes of the grey tabby.
“Release it, dog.”
Honey blanched. She was close enough to count his whiskers, feel his musky odour invading her nostrils. Drool flooded her mouth in a panicked gush. All she wanted to do was turn tail and run. But she stood her ground.
“N…no.” Honey gulped. “We… we need to see your king… um… leader, I mean. I will only give it to him.”
The grey tabby slowly unsheathed his claws. Honey stared at their crimson tips. She felt her muscles tense, and she wondered wildly if there was any way she could move fast enough to avoid those slashing talons.
Then the claws disappeared into grey fur. “Come.” The big grey tabby turned with a flick of his tail and padded away.
About the Author:
H.Y. Hanna is Taiwanese by birth, British by education, pseudo-American by accent and currently Australian by residence! After graduating from Oxford University, she tried her hand at a variety of jobs, from advertising in London to English Language teaching in Sydney, before returning to her first love: writing. Always fascinated by dogs, she specialised as a pet writer for magazines in the UK, Australia and NZ, and has been heavily involved in training, behaviour, dog sports and photography. When she’s not working on her next novel, she’s usually found watching repeats of her favourite TV show, Fringe or wiping Dane slobber off the walls.
You can find out more about her (and the ‘real-life Honey’ who inspired the series) at: www.bighoneydogmysteries.com, where you’ll also find book discussion questions and other parents/teachers resources as well as fun activity sheets and interactive puzzles. Or follow the Big Honey Dog Mysteries Facebook Page – and become a fan to keep up with all the latest news and updates!
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