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Murder on the Hoof (Colleen McCabe Series) by Kathryn O'Sullivan
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250049469
Date: 06 May 2014 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

In the gorgeous coastal village of Corolla, North Carolina, Fire Chief Colleen McCabe and her firemen are conducting an emergency drill on the beach. Actors in the community playhouse are portraying injured victims. Unfortunately, the drill ends in tragedy when one of the actors is found dead. The next day, another member of the playhouse is found strangled to death in the dumbwaiter at the Whalehead Club where rehearsals are being held for the upcoming performance of Wild and Free. Colleen, with the help of her on-again off-again boyfriend, Sheriff Bill Dorman, must find the killer before more members of the acting community are murdered.

Murder on the Hoof is Kathryn O'Sullivan's highly entertaining cozy that is a vast improvement over her debut Foal Play. Instead of having an obvious killer, an overabundance of silly antics, and unrealistic police and medical procedures, O'Sullivan has presented readers with an intricately plotted whodunit with a large cast of suspects. There is some slapstick humor, but it doesn't distract from the seriousness of the murders. The murders are tragic and baffling but not senseless and gruesome, such as the ones in O'Sullivan's first novel. The killer in Murder on the Hoof is a calculatingly evil one who doesn't want their secrets revealed. I suggest reading Foal Play first because it establishes the setting and the killer's identity is mentioned several times in its sequel.

The author knows how to write a cozy that will have maximum appeal among her fans. She finds an exotic setting, the Outer Banks, specifically the vacation community of Corolla. One doesn't even have to leave the country if they wish to visit; it is less than an hour drive from my home in Chesapeake, Virginia. I know many people who have gone there for extravagant weddings. Next, the author creates a very likeable character in the form of strong, independent Fire Chief Colleen McCabe who has succeeded in a male-dominated field. She has cute, loveable pets: Sparky, the Border collie, and Smokey, the Siamese cat. (Having owned a Border collie, I can attest to their extreme intelligence and loyalty.) Colleen has an admirable work ethic like my own; I also feel guilty if I miss more than one day of work.

Many females, and some males, will wish they were living Colleen's life. She has two handsome, successful men vying for her affections. The first one is Currituck County Sheriff Bill Dorman who is also her best friend. Naturally, when your best friend is someone of the opposite sex, there is going to be some problems. When a famous actress, Hayley Thorpe, arrives in town and begins kissing Bill, Colleen feels twinges of jealousy. Meanwhile, millionaire land developer and Italian stud, Antonio "Pinky" Salvatore, begins to wine and dine her in his stretch limousine. Bill begins feeling twinges of jealousy himself. Colleen and Bill appear to be forever trapped in the limbo that exists between friendship and love. The delicious tension this creates will carry over into future installments, making readers wonder whether or not they will ever marry.

Stalking, breaking and entering, poisoning, and strangling turn a vacation paradise into a living nightmare for a group of aging thespians in Kathryn O'Sullivan's intriguing cozy, Murder on the Hoof. With its likeable, respectable heroine; quirky, humorous characters; evil villain; sun-drenched setting; adorable pets; wild Spanish Mustangs; and an Agatha Christie-like whodunit, cozy readers and animal lovers are going to want to take this novel with them on their summer vacations. Readers who live on the East Coast will wish to visit Corolla themselves. It truly is a beautiful place.

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