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By Lee Charles Kelley
Avon, July, 2006 ($6.99)
Reviewed by Cherie Jung
The New England woods have become a hunting ground for a vicious serial killer. There are 21 murders that fit the killer's pattern. When the bloated body of a woman is pulled from a nearby lake, Jack Fields knows what signs to look for. He discussed a similar case, years ago, at a seminar in Quantico.
Jack is a former detective. He runs a dog kennel and is an unpaid consultant for the State of Maine's medical examiner. Although he would like to live a nice, quiet, and peaceful life in the countryside with his dogs, his personal life is complicated. He's engaged to be married (in two weeks) to Dr. Jamie Cutter, the state's medical examiner. His ex-girlfriend, Kristin Downey, keeps intruding in his life because hers is such a mess. Dr. Cutter is not amused by these intrusions. Kristin's stepdaughter, Jen, used to work for Jack at his kennel. She is missing again, and was thought to be the body fished from the lake when Jack and Kristin first heard of the grisly discovery.
It turns out the body is not Jen. But where is she? Jack found her before when she ran away and he is determined to find her again, if she's still alive. Kristin is a mess. Jamie is annoyed and reluctant to break any laws in uncovering clues as to Jen's whereabouts. And Jack is Jack.
To complicate things even a bit more, Jen told Jack her real mother had been murdered in a lake. The stepmother insists the drowning was a suicide, not murder. Jack doesn't know what the truth is.
This is the first book in the series that I have read. I found the first nine chapters (66 pages) a bit slow going for my tastes and way too cute. Once I got past who was who and how they related to others in the mix, and the investigation of Jen's disappearance really got underway, I settled in and the story unfolded in an interesting enough tale. Part of the mystery is whether or not Jen's mother was, in fact, murdered and if she was, is that murderer now stalking Jen.
I stuck with the story long after I would normally have quit reading because I like dog stories, or sleuthing partners of the canine variety. Non-dog lovers may find this book beyond their tolerance. Dog lovers, on the other hand, and readers who are already fans of the series should find the book engaging enough.
This series includes A NOSE FOR MURDER, MURDER UNLEASHED, TO COLLAR A KILLER, 'TWAS THE BITE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, and DOGGED PURSUIT.
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