Saturday, March 4, 2017

Trouble at the Animal Shelter (Cedar Bay Cozy Mystery #10), by Dianne Harman

Amazon Digital Services, January 2017

A cozy mystery involving dogs--I really wanted to like this one. And the characters are likable, at least the ones who are supposed to be.

But.

The basic setup is pretty straightforward. Maggie Ryan taught school in Cedar Bay for many years, but retired a few years ago, and has since become a bit of a recluse. When the local police get a call about barking dogs, they arrive to find her house on fire, about thirty dogs there, and Maggie Ryan dead from a bullet hole in her head. Who killed her, why, and where did those thirty dogs come from?

I have two basic types of complaint about the book. The first is what is known in science fiction reading world is known as "As you know, Bob"; information the reader needs is conveyed by the characters telling each other things they both already know.

The other is the writer's failure to research or think about important facts involved in the subject matter of the mystery.

In this case, we have an animal shelter which is already near capacity, which is getting an unplanned influx of thirty dogs. Obviously, they need stuff donated, in quantity, quickly. Food. Vet services (they have no way of knowing if these dogs have had any vaccinations at all, for starters.) Beds.

Wait, what? Beds?

The shelter is already near capacity, and needs places to put thirty additional dogs. In these circumstances, dog beds are a "nice to have," but what's essential is dog crates. Otherwise, once their few remaining kennels have dogs in them, they have no place to put the other dogs. So they need crates, crates are never mentioned, and it's made really, really clear that when they say "beds," they mean the soft, often fluffy, things that go in the crates to make the dog more comfortable, and are not talking about crates. The thing is, if you have crates, you can use towels or blankets if you don't have proper dog beds, and if really desperate, a dog can use a crate with no bed for a while while you spread the word that you need more donations.

Then there's the fact that if there's any mention of scanning these dogs for microchips. This should be standard shelter procedure, especially given that it's a complete surprise to everyone that Maggie Ryan has even one dog, much less thirty. Where did they come from? And it's clear that we're supposed to consider the Cedar Bay animal shelter a good and responsible one, so why don't they scan for chips? Most likely because the writer failed to do research.

Then there's the dogs. A beautiful Akita. A beautiful German shepherd. A beautiful bulldog puppy, maybe twelve weeks old. We're given the impression most or all of the dogs are of easily recognizable breeds. There are purebred dogs in shelters, about 25% of the total. They are not usually beautiful examples of their breeds, and most dogs in shelters are various mixes.

There's also the awkward fact that at least one of those dogs is really suspiciously well-trained. It's almost unbelievable that that particular dog doesn't have microchip and a person looking for him. But still no mention.

A twelve-week-old bulldog puppy... But no. I will not give my bulldog rant. I will not give my bulldog rant. I WILL NOT give my bulldog rant...

I wanted to like this book. There's a good story in here, that touches on some interesting and important issues, and deals with those issues quite intelligently.

I'm frustrated more than disappointed.

Not recommended.