Friday, March 25, 2011

Beaglemania - Linda O. Johnston

A Pet Rescue Mystery
Linda O. Johnston
Berkley Prime Crime


As the head administrator of HotRescues, Lauren Vancouver has a lot on her hands. HotRescues is a no-kill shelter funded privately by a super-chain of pet stores called, of course, HotPets. Lauren takes care of her charges, runs the books for the place, and oversees adoptions. One of the least savory aspects of her job is finding out about puppy mills. Rumors spread fast through formal and informal channels in the shelter business, and Lauren hears about a raid going on nearby. When she arrives, she’s horrified to find Efram Kiley, an erstwhile volunteer at Hot Rescues on the premises. He claims he heard about the rescue and is only there to help, but it soon becomes clear that he had a hand in the puppy mill.

Not only in the mill, but in the four tiny beagle puppies tossed into a nearby storm drain. Clearly, Efram thought he could cover his crimes by disposing of the living evidence. Naturally, Laruen bans Efram from the premises of HotRescues. Naturally, the lowlife makes threats against the people and animals at HotRescues. Not so naturally, Lauren finds Efram at the shelter, dead. The high-tech camera system and crack security team saw nothing and Lauren immediately becomes the prime suspect. A few more nasty incidents at the shelter only seem to point the finger of suspicion more firmly in her direction. Taking a cue from animal-rights lawyer Kendra Ballantyne, Lauren decides that she owes it to herself and her animal friends to do a little investigating of her own.

This is the first installment in a new series by the author of the Kendra Ballantyne series. It’s interesting to see the sort of spin-off series take shape, as Lauren needs to hire a lawyer, and hires one from Kendra’s practice. I may be a bit biased, since I firmly believe that every animal in every shelter deserves a loving forever home, and so I’m pretty sympathetic toward Lauren and her cause. The scenes of Lauren going through her daily routine at the shelter are a bit bittersweet, knowing that, for every animal that ends up in a place like this, there are many more that meet less fortunate ends.

Although I’m disposed to like this series, this effort feels uneven. Lauren, who has no investigative experience, decides to make a list of suspects and question every one of them. It’s completely unrealistic to think that Efram’s relatives (who know that Lauren considered him an animal-abusing monster, since he was) would talk to her at all, let alone give her any useful information. Yet, this is what happens. I know the story needs to move forward, but there’s no reason the puppy mill operators or Efram’s lawyer would give Lauren the time of day. The book mainly focuses on the animals, with the mystery a sort of subplot that’s just too easy to solve. Still, anyone who feels this strongly about animal rights gets not only my respect, but my continued support.

Rating: 6
March 2011
ISBN# 978-0-425-24021-2 (paperback)


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