Under the Dog Star
Poisoned Pen, Sep 6 2011, $24.95
In Mason County, Virginia feral dogs apparently ripped the throat of Dr. Gordon Hall. However, deputy sheriff Tom Bridger has doubts that a wild pack murdered Hall; he believes a human handler had his or her canine kill the victim as a part of an illegal dog fighting operation. However proving his assertion and finding the real culprit appears impossible though he looks closely at the dysfunctional family of the victim. The outraged locals plan to hunt down the packs even as dog-napping has arisen in the county.
At the same, Tom’s girlfriend veterinarian Rachel Goddard and her assistant Holly Turner try to prevent the canine massacre from occurring while their clinic wall has been posted by Missing Dog pleas. They end up in the middle of Tom’s investigation while the local dog fighting ring chief watches them carefully in case they need to join Hall.
With a nod to the Michael Vick conviction, the latest Rachel Goddard amateur sleuth (see The Heat of the Moon and Broken Places) is a superb thriller that focuses on animal abuse inside of a strong whodunit. The story line is action-packed with a strong mystery, but it is the description of the maltreatments of animals, whose images at times overwhelms the heroine, her assistant and the readers, and will remain in our memories long after the climax.