This is a debut novel...from a debut author as well. She grew up on a Costa Rican coffee farm and at one point was a volunteer at a zoo, helping out with everything from “waste management” to teaching an elephant how to paint. I am sure her animal experience helps in writing this exciting new series.
Copyright: July 2013 (Berkley) 304 pgs
Series: 1st in A Call of the Wilde Mysteries
Mystery Sub-genre: Amateur Sleuth
Main Characters: Grace Wilde, Animal behaviorist who speaks with animals telepathically
Setting: Modern day, Jacksonville Florida
Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review
When she’s not helping out at the zoo by comforting agitated lemurs, she’s listening to the woes of annoyed house pets. Grace Wilde's family all know about her ability to psychically communicate with animals, but otherwise she doesn't share how she does the amazing with wild and domestic animals. She is at the zoo getting a paniced lemur that escaped its enclosure off her head and back in its place, when she gets called by the police. There is a murder of the a high profile football player for the Jacksonville Jaguars and son to the Governor and his Doberman Jax is the only witness to the murder. Grace is called in because the Doberman is acting out and aggressive...until Grace gets there and he rolls over. Grace takes him into her care to help him through his trauma. But the real problem is how will Grace tell the cop that it’s Jax who shares what happened without sounding crazy? So Grace follows the Doberman's sketchy memories to track down the killer. The main suspect is another football player, LaBryce Walker, that Grace knows because she has trained his real-live Jaguar named Charm. Grace is positive that he did not kill his friend, no matter if they had an argument.
I really enjoyed the main character, Grace Wilde. She handles the animal communication much better than interactions with people. She was burned before when attempting to tell a boyfriend about her skill so she is very reluctant to tell anybody outside her family and life-long close friend Wes. This case has her rethinking that plan. The romantic interest is... yep - a cop, Sergeant Kai Duncan. He is supposed to be a crime scene unit member, but he seemed more like a regular cop in the course of the story. This was perhaps the rough spot since every amateur sleuth seems to date a cop anymore. Kai is at least an interesting cop, but is far too distracted by Grace. Grace's sister Emma is a party planner handling high society of the area. I think she is the surprise stand out character. I enjoyed their close relationship and Emma's shrewd insights. I am looking forward to more of Emma in the following novels. Grace's best friend, Wes only made a short appearance, but his character has lots of potential as well. Last but not least is Grace's closest buddy, Moss, her half wolf companion. I loved Moss who is a devoted wolf/dog pet.
The setting in Jacksonville was highlighted with nice beach scenes occasionally and some posh mansions. But otherwise it is just backdrop. The plotting had some good twists and kept me turning the pages. I had my suspicions on who-donit, but I was surprised by a few of the turns the story took. The climax got the blood pumping - my favorite. The wrap-up helped set up the next novel nicely.
This debut novel is actually one of the best involving communicating with animals I have read. Not too cutesy, it is a smidgen more than a cozy with an interesting main character that has some brains. This series is off to a good start.
Ratings: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list