Sunday, February 18, 2007

Meow is for Murder - Linda O. Johnston



Meow is for Murder
A Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter Mystery
Linda O. Johnston
Berkley Prime Crime

Mystery

Life is looking pretty good for Kendra Ballantyne at the moment. She’s got her law license reinstated, she’s a partner at a firm doing interesting work, and she’s still able to fit in her pet-sitting duties. She’s also dating Jeff Hubbard, possibly the best-looking (in her opinion, anyway) PI in Los Angeles. And, just recently, he told his gorgeous but poisonous ex-wife, Amanda, that he’s through being pulled back into her life and referred her to another PI. In front of Kendra. Which was pretty gratifying. Even the fact that he’s out of town on a case isn’t cause for concern, with nightly phone calls.

Life never stays so good for long. Amanda is back, but this time she wants Kendra’s services. According to Amanda, her former boyfriend, Leon Lucero is stalking her. In order to escape him, she’s leaving town for a few weeks. She skillfully manipulates Kendra into cat sitting for her while she’s gone. On her first visit to Amanda’s, Leon angrily confronts Kendra, demanding to know where Amanda is. Kendra doesn’t know. Until a few hours later, when she discovers that Amanda is, just coincidentally, in Chicago with Jeff. In the same hotel, no less. So much for his not being pulled back into her life.

And, when Amanda returns home, there’s more trouble. She calls Kendra, in hysterics, demanding that Kendra come to her home and fix the situation. Worried for the cats, Kendra complies. What she finds is Amanda, covered in blood. And Leon, lying dead on the bedroom floor with a screwdriver nearby. Amanda says she tried to revive him. The cops aren’t buying it. And Amanda makes Kendra an amazing offer: help prove that she’s innocent, and Amanda will get out of Jeff’s life for good. Really.

New readers will have no trouble jumping in at this point. The mystery here is interesting, since, while there’s no shortage of suspects, even new readers will feel pretty ambivalent about Amanda’s fate. It’s to the author’s credit that she manages to inject some humanity and reality into Amanda, and not merely present her as a cardboard ‘mean girl.’ Kendra and the author do a great job of balancing the pet sitting, the law firm cases, and the amateur sleuthing. Any animal lover will understand why Kendra enjoys that part of her life. The animals are as fully characterized as the people. As they should be.

Rating: 7 ½
February 2007
ISBN# 978-0-425-21430-5 (paperback)

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