Beaglemania (A Pet Rescue Mystery)
by Linda O. Johnston
Cover Artist: Jennifer Taylor / Paper Dog Studios
Review by Cathy Green
Berkley Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425240212
Date: 01 March 2011 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Linda O. Johnston, author of the Kendra Ballantyne pet sitter mysteries, has created a new pet-themed mystery series starring Lauren Vancouver, head of Hot Rescues, a private, no-kill animal shelter. Beaglemania, the first book in this new series, opens with Lauren present at the rescue of a large number of dogs from a puppy mill, including several Beagle puppies that someone threw down a storm drain. Lauren is particularly incensed because she believes that the person who dumped the puppies down the drain was Efram Kiley, who had been working at Hot Rescues. Lauren fires Efram, who shows up at Hot Rescues and threatens her. Lauren is equally hostile towards Efram and has him thrown out of the shelter. She decides to sleep at the shelter that night because she's afraid that Efram will come back and do some damage out of spite for being fired. When Lauren hears a noise and investigates, she stumbles upon Efram's body just as the police show up after receiving an anonymous call.
Soon Lauren is the LPD's number one suspect. Fortunately, the shelter's rich benefactor, Dante DeFrancisco, believes in her, as does his lawyer, Kendra Ballantyne, who recommends a good criminal attorney. Despite her confidence in her attorney, Lauren decides she needs to solve Efram's murder herself, or at least provide the police with other viable suspects. Therefore, she starts interviewing Efram's relatives, his lawyer, the puppy mill owners and Hot Rescue's employees.
Meanwhile, other nonlethal attacks occur at the shelter and the security guards that patrol the shelter grounds make it clear they believe Lauren has been faking the attacks to divert suspicion from herself. Lauren needs to solve the murder quickly before the shelter's reputation is ruined and she is arrested for Efram's murder.
One of the things I liked about Beaglemania is that Lauren is not an entirely successful amateur detective. While she does solve the murder, her attempts at subtly questioning Efram's friends, relatives and associates are anything but subtle and they all realize she's looking to have one of them replace her as the LAPD's number one suspect. As a result, while she does get some useful information, she also spends a lot of time getting thrown out of various people's offices and homes.
Johnston does a nice job of giving the reader a picture of Lauren's personality as something of a micro-manager bordering on control freak. While those traits enable Lauren to run Hot Rescue successfully, they also make her incapable of letting the police handle the murder investigation and make it hard for her to accept help from friends and family. My one complaint is that for a book called Beaglemania, the Beagle puppies do not play much of a role. Other than having fewer Beagles than expected, Beaglemania is a fun, fluffy beach read.