The More the Terrier (A Pet Rescue Mystery)
by Linda O. Johnston
Review by Cathy Green
Berkley Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425243794
Date: 04 October 2011 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The More The Terrier, Linda O. Johnston's follow up to Beaglemania, opens with Lauren Vancouver dealing with a hysterical phone call from her former mentor, Mamie Spelling. Lauren and Mamie had had a falling out when Lauren got the job as the head of HotRescues. Now it turns out that Mamie has become a pet hoarder. Given the rules and limitations places on private shelters, Lauren is not in a position to treat Mamie's situation as an 'owner surrender' and she calls in Captain Matt Kingston of Los Angeles Animal Services. Matt promises that if any of the animals are in danger of being euthanized he will call Laura. However, one consequence of official involvement is that Mamie ends up getting arrested for animal cruelty.
Meanwhile, the attention the large scale rescue is getting results as the media to shows up, possibly having been called by Bethany Unger, former cosmetics magnate and head of Pet Shelters Together. According to Mamie, Bethany had been threatening her to get her to join the Pet Shelters Together network. However, Mamie is not acting in a completely rational manner. On the other hand, Bethany does not come across as a particularly nice person. Instead, she comes across as someone who is into rescue work for self-aggrandizement and not out of any great love of animals. For instance, the fact that Mamie had become a hoarder is a tragedy, but Bethany treats it as a photo op and seems to delight in Mamie's downfall.
Lauren feels an obligation to help the animals rescued from Mamie's home and also feels an obligation to Mamie, perhaps feeling a bit guilty that her getting the HotRescues job over Mamie might have been a triggering event that lead her to become a hoarder. Working with Matt Kingston, Lauren arranges for other shelter runners to visit the animals now in the care of the public shelter and Matt agrees that when the time comes, many of the animals can be moved to private rescue organizations. Bethany tries to take over and put herself in charge, but Matt quickly puts Bethany in her place and indicates that everything will be coordinated through Lauren. Soon Lauren is being badgered by Bethany to join her network and by Mamie who still doesn't realize that she has a problem and wants some of her animals back and a job at HotRescues. Things soon come to a head when Lauren attends a meeting of private rescue shelter runners and Mamie shows up and threatens Bethany. Soon thereafter Lauren receives a hysterical call in the night from Mamie, who is at Bethany's place with Bethany's corpse.
While not dismissing the idea that Mamie could be the murderer, given her increasingly erratic behavior and desperation to get her animals back, Lauren is not happy that the police do not seem to be looking for any other suspects, especially since a bloody Pet Shelters Together pin not belonging to Bethany or Mamie was found at the scene. As she conducts her own investigation, Lauren finds that very few people liked Bethany, but that none of those people seemed to dislike her enough to kill her. Will Lauren be able to clear her former friend and mentor, or will she end up putting the final nail in Mamie's coffin?
The murder occurs much further into The More The Terrier than it did in Beaglemania. This is not a bad thing, as it gives the reader a much better sense of the victim while she is still alive. Also, a not insignificant focus in this book is the psychology behind pet hoarding, and Johnston does a good job of showing how events in Mamie's life lead to her compulsion to "save" animals in a way that was causing them harm and to Mamie's refusal to see that she had a problem, resulting in her isolation from friends and family.
There is also a minor secondary mystery in the book involving animals being left on HotRescues's doorstep. Because of the rules governing private rescue shelters, organizations like Lauren's can only take animals that would otherwise be euthanized by the public shelter or owner surrenders. Recently, animals have been left at HotRescues in the middle of the night with notes claiming that the animals have been owner surrendered, but Lauren suspects a good samaritan familiar with the rules has been picking up strays and pretending they are owner surrenders in order to leave them at a no kill shelter. Because Lauren doesn't want to give the city cause to rescind HotRescues's license, she calls Matt Kingston every time, but so far he's been letting her keep the dogs.
If you liked Beaglemania or Johnston's Pet Sitter mysteries, you'll enjoy The More The Terrier.