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Chihuahua of the Baskervilles (Tripping Magazine Mystery) by Esri Allbritten
Cover Artist: Photos: Landscape by iStockphoto.com / Duncan Walker
 Chihuahua by Lifeonwhite.com
Review by Don Metzler
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312569150
Date: 05 July 2011 List Price $23.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Blog / Show Official Info /

The bark came again, and Charlotte pushed back her chair.

Thomas put a hand on her shoulder. "Charlotte, do not go out there."

"But it's Petey!" She braced herself on the table and squirmed from under his grip.

"Charlotte, don't be an idiot!" He stood and struggled to keep her in her chair. "There's no such thing as ghosts!"

She bent and lunged forward, managing to stand but hitting the corner of the table as she did so. "Ow!" She trotted toward the door, one hand pressed to her hip.

Thomas's long stride took him there before her. "It's not Petey! I'll show you." He wrenched open the door. A gust of cold air flowed in, and the howl came again, sounding closer. Leaving the door open, he ran into the backyard. "Where are you, you bastard?!"

Angus MacGregor, part-time editor of a low budget periodical named Tripping, is summoned to Manitou Springs, Colorado. He is accompanied on this assignment by two new assistants: photographer Suki Oota and writer Michael Abernathy. Tripping is a travel magazine with a twist. It specializes in showcasing vacation destinations with a paranormal connection... ghost stories, in other words. The paranormal event that has brought the crew of Tripping to Manitou Springs is the alleged sighting of a deceased pet Chihuahua by, get this, a woman named Charlotte Baskerville.

Charlotte, owner of a successful company that designs clothing and costumes for the smaller canine breeds (the foo-foo dogs of the idle wealthy) claims to have seen and heard the ghost of her cherished but departed pet, Petey the Chihuahua. Charlotte's husband, Thomas, maintains that it is all a hallucination concocted in his aging wife's deteriorating mind. When Angus and his crew arrive on the scene they are confronted with a series of contradictions, as well as a series of mysteries whose solutions are not immediately evident.

The first thing that becomes obvious to Angus, Suki, and Michael is that Charlotte and Thomas's marriage is on very fragile ground. Several years earlier, Thomas squandered his own inherited wealth through unwise investments, and he now covets the small fortune that his wife has earned by means of her dog-clothing business. Charlotte, on the other hand, is acutely aware of her husband's attempts to take control of her money, and has steadfastly thrown obstacles in his way. The situation that Angus and his crew have entered is a tense one indeed.

Then the ghost of Petey makes a second appearance, in full view of the entire staff of Tripping magazine, a glowing apparition that prances across the yard of the Baskerville estate. But this time the haunting takes a tragic turn. Suddenly, what had for Angus been a somewhat lighthearted investigation into an unlikely, though endearing alleged ghost sighting, has become a case of possible murder. But murder by whom, and for what possible gain? And if it is not murder, is it conceivable that the specter of Petey is real? Has the dearly departed Chihuahua returned to Manitou Springs to fulfill some mission that was left unfinished during the dog years of his earthly lifetime?

That is the question that the staff of Tripping magazine sets out to answer.

Confronted with a title such as Chihuahua of the Baskervilles, the first question that a dedicated reader of the Sherlock Holmes stories might set out to answer is: will Sir Arthur Conan Doyle be turning in his grave over this?

One suspects not. If anything, wherever Doyle is, he is most likely chuckling in delight at this latest humorous twist on one of his most celebrated books.

The story that author Esri Allbritten has woven is witty, sympathetic, and entertaining. If she is having a bit of fun at the expense of Doyle's Hound of the Baskervilles, it is accomplished in a manner that pays homage to the original Holmes stories. If anything, Chihuahua of the Baskervilles is a book that probably would have pleased Arthur Conan Doyle no end, and should likewise please present day readers.

Allbritten's characters are distinctive and individual, while not always entirely likeable. Michael Abernathy is a skeptic when it comes to otherworldly phenomena, and his expressions of skepticism often come off as abrasive and obnoxious, and constitute an ongoing annoyance to his editor, Angus. (After all, Michael's employer is Tripping magazine!) The photographer Suki, an oriental beauty and fashion queen, comes across as neither skeptic nor otherwise, although her seemingly innate sympathy for other people frequently seems forced, and suggests that she may have ulterior motives. But the occasional unlikeability of Michael and Suki, and several other characters in the story, only serves to make them come alive as real people.

Allbritten's accurate descriptions of the quirky hamlet of Manitou Springs are likewise a delight.

Chihuahua of the Baskervilles is a thoroughly enjoyable book, and heartily recommended.

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