Dog Blog

Tuesday, July 02, 2013


BRACED FOR MURDER                
Five Star Publishing  May, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4328-2689-5

You would imagine this Beanie and Cruiser mystery novel would make light summer reading; it does, as it follows the adventures of two basset hounds and their mistress on the trail of a killer, but Sue Owens Wright also tackles the deeper issues of high-kill shelters and cruelty to animals by owners who should never have opted for pets in the first place.
Lake Tahoe, California, is the setting in this book.  Newspaper reporter and basset hound owner Elsie MacBean, aka Beanie, member of the Washoe tribe, finds the Lakeside Animal Shelter suspiciously lax in its personnel policy.  The workers there don’t appear to treat the animals in their care with the understanding they deserve and euthanasia is the rule, rather than the exception.  The shelter is overpopulated and underfunded.  She adopts Calamity, a tri-coloured basset (who hilariously lives up to her name) and is called in for her detecting skills by Sheriff Skip Cassidy when the manager of this same shelter is found murdered.  In an ironic twist, the euthanasia cubicle has become a death chamber for a human, rather than for a canine victim.
No one mourns the death of Rhoda Marx.  She ran the shelter like a concentration camp and euthanized rescued dogs as quickly as possible, making enemies of animal rights activists and pet-owning citizens alike.  There are too many suspects.  Murder is murder, however, and Beanie and her basset team have to help Cassidy find the killer.
In addition to Wright’s peppering of dog lore throughout the novel, she explores the foibles of overly militant animal organizations, while keeping Beanie on the side of the angels in dog rescue.  She also addresses prejudices concerning Native American Washoes and the practices of the Native American Church, and what can happen when cultures clash.
Delicious elements of the paranormal drive the narrative along; they include a haunted kennel at the shelter, precognitive dreams and a very touching vision of the afterlife.
Surprisingly, I had a few teary-eyed moments while reading this novel.  This was due partly to the way Wright portrays the plight of animals who are so dependent upon humans for their welfare, and partly due to a ghostly hound presence who appears to the characters on numerous occasions.  Her writing serves to wring an emotional response from the reader, one of deep compassion.    This mystery, the fourth in the series, is a lovely little book for pet-savvy humans.                                                                                                                                              

- Leigh Byron 

William and Leigh Byron both have degrees in English literature and creative writing, and they both have been teachers for longer than they care to remember.  The Byrons live deep in the woods of Quebec with their Great Pyrenees, Tristan, and their two cats, Winston and Jiffy Elf.




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