Thursday, March 24, 2011
For all you animals lovers out there, here is a new series featuring a pet rescue. No talking pets, no hearing the animal's thoughts, no super-animals, but plenty of lovable animals and a gutsy sleuth who has a heart for the four-legged-furry beings among us.
Author: Linda O. Johnston
Copyright: March 2011 (Berkley) 298 pgs
Series: 1st in Pet Rescue Mysteries
Sensuality: Mild romance
Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy
Main Character: Lauren Vancover, head of HotRescues, a privately funded no-kill animal shelter
Setting: Modern day, north of Los Angeles
Obtained Through: Publisher for an honest review
The trouble starts when Lauren helps rescue four beagle puppies that were dumped down a drainpipe at a nasty puppy mill. One of the mill's employees, Efran has a history of dog abuse and as a condition of his plea agreement for a recent animal cruelty charge he volunteered at HotRescues to learn to treat animals ethically. Needless to say, Lauren is upset to see Efran was part of the abusive puppy mill. When Lauren arranges for him to be banned from working at HotRescues, Efran makes vicious threats to Lauren, the whole staff and the animals at the rescue.
But when Efran is found stabbed to death at HotRescues, Lauren is quickly painted as the killer, and somebody who knows how to access the shelter undetected by the security cameras is setting her up as the fall guy the more time goes by. Lauren starts to investigate on her own and nobody is above suspicion, not even the attractive Capt. Matt Kingston of Animal Services who appears to be interested in her.
Apparently this new series has a tie-in to the Pet Sitter Mystery series which featured Kendra Ballantine, who is the millionaire who funds HotRescues' girlfriend. Kendra gets a cameo appearance in this new series.
As cozy mysteries go this is a solid entry. Lauren is a mother with children in college who, after being widowed had a bad second marriage and is very gun-shy. She comes across as a pretty level-headed if stuborn woman who doesn't take no for an answer easily. She has a hard time relying on others which is put to the test as she has an increasingly hard time separating her true friends from who is setting her up.
The other characters include Captain Matt Kingston of Animal Services who makes a good potential love interest and someone who may be a good match for Lauren. There is the private owner of HotRescues Dante DeFrancis who made his millions with a chain of pet stores - definite potential for this character in future books. The right-hand person at the rescue, Nina who is fresh out of an abusive marriage - I could see her character taking off. Then there is Lauren's best friend Carlie, a veterinarian and host of a television Pet Health show.
There is plenty of information about pet rescues scattered throughout the story. I felt it was presented as part of Lauren's job and passion as opposed to being overwhelming or tedious. I certainly have a new appreciation for the hard work of running a pet rescue after this book. You will definitely understand a pet lover's feelings about puppy mills or dog fight participants upon reading this book.
There are several suspects to wade through and Lauren handles investigating in a logical manner, for the most part. There were two places when I thought it just didn't make sense to expect gaining an upper hand on the killer in that manner. The plot was well laid out and the killer was somebody that early on I thought of but discounted later so I felt it gave me a good red herring there. The climax was good and the wrap up was uplifting and even heartwarming.
All-in-all, an exciting new cozy series that has a solid debut and lots of potential for future entries.