Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Fright of the Iguana - Linda O. Johnston

The Fright of the Iguana
A Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter Mystery
Linda O. Johnston
Berkley Prime Crime


Kendra Ballantyne, attorney and part-time pet-sitter, was making her early morning rounds to check on her animal clients before going into the office to deal with the more-difficult human clients. Her last stop was the palatial home of movie super-producer Edmund Dorgan. The Dorgans took their entire staff to the south of France, leaving only Zibble the Shar-pei and Saurus the iguana at home. When Zibble doesn’t greet her at the door, Kendra knows something is wrong. When she sees Saurus’ empty custom-built outdoor cage is empty, she becomes alarmed. And, when she sees the ransom note pinned to the frame of the cage, she immediately calls the police.

After dealing with the police, Kendra starts networking with other area pet-sitters. Her first call is to the president of the local pet-sitters’ club, Tracy Owens. Tracy’s first reaction is to tell Kendra that she’s not the first. In fact, this is the third such pet-napping that has happened, and that’s just among the members of the club. Tracy quickly calls a meeting for the next evening, during which stories are shared, everyone brought up to date, and progress (of which there is none) discussed. Everyone agrees to be more vigilant with their animal charges. Tracy vows to continue her habit of carrying a baseball bat for protection.

The following day, Kendra gets a frantic call from Tracy, who is at the home of one of her clients. Tracy walked in and found Nya, the vice-president of the pet-sitters’ club there, where she shouldn’t be. But that’s not the worst of it. Nya was lying on the floor of the kitchen, and it looks like she was beaten to death with a baseball bat. Kendra knows that Tracy’s couldn’t possibly have done it, but the police aren’t so sure.

One of the best things about these books, aside from the animals, obviously, is that the author generally manages to jump right into the action, or crime. Since this is the latest in a series (most recently MEOW IS FOR MURDER) there’s some background, but the author manages to work that in very nicely while still getting the plot moving very quickly. Newcomers will have no problems getting up to speed. Kendra’s life and character have evolved over the course of the series, but she’s always very likeable. Whether she’s defending her animal or human clients, she’s always looking out for their best interests. The mystery is very different, with the pet-napping scheme that may or may not be connected to the murder. Mystery readers and animal lovers alike will adore this clever installment.

Rating: 7 ½
October 2007
ISBN# 978-0-425-21802-0 (paperback)


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