Sunday, November 05, 2006

Gaits of Heaven - Susan Conant

Gaits of Heaven
A Dog Lover’s Mystery
Susan Conant
Berkley Prime Crime

Mystery / Cozy

Holly Winter, dog trainer and writer, is learning the hard way that no good deed goes unpunished. She had such good intentions when she offered up obedience classes for a charity auction. The winners, Ted Green and Eumie Brainard-Green are therapists. If you live in Cambridge or its environs, you know that means they’re psychotherapists. You also knows that means they’re… eccentric. So, when they show up for obedience classes with a golden Aussie huskapoo (the newest, pointless designer breed, comprised of Golden retriever, Australian shepherd, Siberian husky, and poodle) it’s not a big surprise that they’re a couple of weeks late. Nor is it surprising that they don’t like to impose limits on their dog, which means no leash and no training.

Unwilling to inflict Dolfo the huskapoo on a beginner class, Holly eventually agrees to conduct some training at Ted and Eumie’s home. While the first session goes fairly well, with Dolfo doing far better than his bipedal parents with the concept, there’s clearly a lot of work to be done. When Holly arrives for their second meeting, she finds Ted waiting for a phone call and Eumie still in bed. When Ted says he can’t rouse Eumie, Holly, despite her trepidations, tries to help, but it’s obvious that Eumie is dead. Caprice, Eumie’s daughter from a previous marriage, tells Holly that both Ted and Eumie availed themselves liberally of the services of a psychopharmacologist. Translation: they take pills, lots and lots of pills. For all that, Caprice claims that her mother was careful with them and doesn’t believe the accidental overdose theory. Holly finds herself in the middle of a severely dysfunctional family and a murder investigation. And all to help poor, happy, good-natured Dolfo learn to be a good boy.

This is the latest in a long series of mysteries from this author. Although I’m owned by cats, I love dogs and enjoy vicariously interacting with the canine characters in Ms. Conant’s books. The mystery set-up here is interesting, and the follow-through is done well. One strangely sour note is Holly’s odd reaction to the sad, overweight Harvard student, Caprice. She seems fixated on the girl’s weight as if she’s never met a fat person before in her life. Seriously, Holly, the girl lost her mother three hours ago, and you’re worried about feeding her tuna salad with mayo for lunch because it’s fattening? That’s just weird. Unfortunately, this issue crops up numerous times over the course of the novel, to the point that other characters start to call her on it. While I enjoyed the mystery, this book proves that often, dogs are nicer than humans.

Rating: 5
November 2006
ISBN# 0-425-21187-8 (hardcover)


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