What do the Birdman of Alcatraz, a bizarrely painted turtle, and three bumbling criminals have in common? Find out in a funny, suspenseful new chapter of the Betts Pets mystery series. There's never a dull moment at Betts Pets, the neighborhood pet shop introduced in TROUBLE AT BETTS PETS. Now, in CANARIES AND CRIMINALS, the eminently likable Aaron Betts and pals Sharon Trout and Tony Wong - not to mention Loafer the Chauffer (now a poet) - are all back, along with a menagerie of offbeat new characters. When Aaron's school project leads to an encounter with an ex-convict, and a turtle with an intricate map on its shell turns up at the shop, Aaron and Sharon are drawn into an all-new mystery and even manage to foil an ill-fated heist. Along the way, Aaron learns a few things about his family, his own artistic talents - and a world where not everyone succeeds as planned.
Kelly Easton is the author of TROUBLE AT BETTS PETS as well as an award-winning young adult novel. She says of CANARIES AND CRIMINALS, "We're living in a time that seems to be about things rather than people. The Betts Pets series, though, is all about people in their zaniness and unpredictability." Kelly Easton is an adjunct professor at Roger Williams University. She lives on an island off the coast of Rhode Island with her husband, two children, and a collie and basset hound. She's hard at work on a third Betts Pets mystery, PAW PRINTS AND PAINTED BIRDS. CHAPTER 2 Guranga usually likes me to go with her when she's helping me research, so she can show me how books are shelved and stuff, but this time she flew away. I guess she decided I could stay on the Net a little while longer. I clicked on the next site. There was a cartoon of Alcatraz island. It said: last resort. free transportation: one way. Guranga returned with the books and set them on a nearby table. "I'll look for more," she said, and disappeared. I clicked on the cartoon, and a photo of Alcatraz appeared. It was like a giant factory of prisoners set on a floating rock. There were photographs of the cells, too. They were the size of walk-in closets, with a bed, a sink, and bars, of course. I logged off and went to the table to look at the books. In the couple of minutes since Guranga left them, some guy had plopped himself down in front of them like it was his report. He was a big guy, about forty or so, with a rubbery face like a gorilla's. One arm rested on my stack of books, while the other held up a book close to his face, like he'd forgotten his glasses. "Hi." I sat down at the table, trying to figure out a polite way to ask for my books. "Are you talking to me?" He sounded pleased, like he was surprised that human beings could speak. "Uh, yeah." "You gotta love it," he said, setting the book down. I slid it toward me. One down and the four under his arm to go. "They didn't let him have birds there," he said. "Huh?" "At Alcatraz. They didn't let the Birdman have birds there. He had them at Leavenworth. So why do they call him the Birdman of Alcatraz?" "I dunno." I hadn't done enough research to figure it out. "Name's TB." He held out his hand. "Aaron Betts." I shook it. "I'm writing a report on the Birdman of Alcatraz." "Interested in criminals?" "Animals. My family has a pet store." "A pet store? You gotta love it. Used to work with elephants myself, in the circus, but then there was a little mishap. What's the name of the pet store?" "Betts Pets." Business has been pretty slow the last couple of years; I always try to advertise our shop when I can. "It rhymes! Isn't that cute. You ever read Hocus Pocus?" "No." "It's by Kurt Vonnegut. The very first page says, 'While there is a criminal element I am of it. While there is a soul in prison I am not free.'" "Sounds good." I peered at the books under his arm. One of them was Stroud's book on canary diseases. "Those words were on a tombstone. I only read that first page, then some guy got it from me and lit it on fire. I don't think it's right to burn books, do you?" "No." "They put him in solitary for that." Solitary? "They didn't care about the book, but arson is frowned upon in the Big House. Uh-oh." He leapt to his feet. "There's that librarian again. She's one scary broad. Thanks for saying hi to me; you're a good kid. I hope I can return the favor." He lumbered away. "This'll do ya." Guranga plopped three more books in front of me.