Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Case of the Roasted Onion - Claudia Bishop

The Case of the Roasted Onion
The Casebook of Dr. McKenzie
Claudia Bishop
Berkley Prime Crime


Retired from his position as departmental chair of Bovine Science at Cornell, veterinarian Austin McKenzie still manages to keep busy. He and his wife, Madeline started a large animal vet practice; a sound business move, given the number of horse and cattle farms in the area. Eventing, or competing in horse shows, is also big business in the area, and the Earlsdown Three-Day Event is coming up soon. Dr. McKenzie is more than a little surprised when he receives an invitation to join the Veterinary Delegation, a group of vets that work the show, making sure horses are sound, and drug-free. In truth, another local vet, Larky Schumacher was scheduled to serve. But Larky was found dead at the side of the road; shot by an unseen rifleman while doing his rounds.

Dr. McKenzie is discomfited by the lack of time that passed between Larky’s death and the issued invitation. He’s quite surprised to discover that Larky had decided not to serve at Earlsdown days before his death. It isn’t long before another local vet is gunned down in the same manner. This vet was also scheduled for Earlsdown. When someone takes a shot at Dr. McKenzie, it’s clear that the events are connected. When he's hired by the odious Brewster McClellan, head of this year's Earlsdown, who hits not only his wife, but his horse, Dr. McKenzie, foe of bad grammar, violence, and those who mistreat animals in any way, identifies McClellan as a possible suspect, and decides to turn his estimable mind to the puzzle. With the help of his lovely wife, and two new assistants, he sets out to crack the case.

Austin McKenzie, a bit prickly and irascible, is a great new amateur sleuth. Watching the events unfold through his eyes works quite well, since, as a vet, he has insight into both the horses and the people who work around them. His devotion to his wife is endearing, and his sense of fair play is absolute. While the investigation takes a while to get started, that time is used nicely to introduce and assemble the characters and lay the groundwork. I’m looking forward to another visit with the venerable Dr. McKenzie.

Rating: 7
September 2006
ISBN# 0-425-21223-8 (paperback)


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