Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Never Say Sty - Linda O. Johnston

Never Say Sty
A Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter Mystery
Linda O. Johnston
Berkley Prime Crime


Kendra Ballantyne manages to balance her two careers very nicely. She pet-sits for a wide variety of customers (and their owners) and she practices law in a firm that allows her flexibility and encourages her to take cases involving animals. Recently, she settled a case against Show Biz Beasts. Several pet owners signed on, but claimed that their animals were never given work. During this case, Kendra’s idea for an animal-based reality show, called Animal Auditions, was born.

Dante DeFrancisco, pet store magnate, heard about the proposed show and wants to executive produce and bankroll the venture, in exchange for exclusive advertising rights. And dinner with Kendra. Since he’s attractive, intelligent, and interesting, Kendra doesn’t have a problem with that. With her relationship with Jeff in an indefinite holding pattern, she feels free to explore options.

One episode of the show will feature pot-bellied pigs. Pigs are, in reality, clean and intelligent creatures, and the show is shaping up nicely, with a few exceptions. Detective Ned Noralles and his sister each have a pig and want to participate. A judge for the show (animals that perform poorly will be voted off weekly) tells them that they’re both in danger of being cut. Soon after, that very judge is found dead. Strangled by a pig harness, no less. Immediate suspects include Ned, his sister, and Dante. Naturally, Kendra wants to clear her friends, new and old.

Ms. Johnston does a very good job of constantly expanding Kendra’s world – and thus, the suspect pool – in each installment. (MEOW IS FOR MURDER, THE FRIGHT OF THE IGUANA, DOUBLE DOG DARE) The concept of the animal reality show is more than feasible, and the show biz types Kendra encounters ring very true. It’s certainly likely that people will become irrationally upset over their pets or over possible fame.

There are several detours from the case, while Kendra takes care of her charges, but those bits simply add to the overall charm of the series. The pacing is solid, the dialogue crisp, and Kendra continues to evolve as a character. Many characters return from previous novels, and their lives continue to grow, as well. All of this without sacrificing anything in the way of storyline. Animal lovers will adore this series for the mystery as well as the animals.

Rating: 7
April 2009
ISBN# 978-0-425-22704-6 (paperback)


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