Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Howl Deadly - Linda O. Johnston


Howl Deadly
A Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter Mystery
Linda O. Johnston
Berkley Prime Crime

Mystery

Kendra Ballantyne was once a high-powered, go-go attorney. Now, she’s finding much more happiness balancing her life between her pet-sitting business and a much more laid-back law firm that specializes in animal rights cases. She’s also got a new flame. Dante DeFrancisco is the owner of HotPets, a national chain of pet supply stores. He also funds and operates HotWildAnimals, a wild animal sanctuary in the San Bernardino Mountains of California.

Aside from the lions, tigers, coyotes and other animals housed in the sanctuary, the star resident at the moment is a mother wolf and her three newborn pups. Kendra is understandably thrilled when she gets an opportunity to give a bottle to one of the pups. Unfortunately, the reason for the bottle is that mommy wolf is somehow missing from her enclosure. Everyone, from the director to the most junior of volunteers, realizes that someone would have had to let her out of the pen. Or perhaps someone took her to ransom back, knowing about Dante’s financial status.

While trying to find the missing wolf, Kendra meets Brody Avilla, movie star and a buddy of Dante’s. In fact, the two of them seem to prefer to have discussions without Kendra in the room, and clearly share some kind of past that they’re not willing to talk about with her. Ever resourceful, Kendra checks the history on Dante’s computer after one of these closed-door meetings and finds searches of a prison, the U.S. Treasury Department, and one of the senior caretakers at the sanctuary with the unlikely name of Jon Doe. Before she can make anything of this revelation, she finds Jon in the wolf enclosure. He’s dead, and there’s a bloody knife on the floor beside him. Even in a wildlife sanctuary, Kendra manages to find a murder mystery.

New readers will have no problems jumping into the series (MEOW IS FOR MURDER, THE FRIGHT OF THE IGUANA, DOUBLE DOG DARE, NEVER SAY STY) at this point. The author skillfully sketches in Kendra’s background at the outset. Longtime readers will be interested to see Kendra in a new setting, with a whole new group of suspects. Mystery readers and animal lovers alike will find much to enjoy in this mystery series. The mystery is tightly plotted and a bit of a departure this time around, making the story feel fresh while we follow Kendra, who always has the animals’ best interests at heart.

Rating: 7 ½
December 2009
ISBN# 978-0-425-23159-3 (paperback)

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