Wednesday, February 6, 2019

A Shot in the Bark (Extended Edition) (Dog Park Mystery #1), by C.A. Newsome (author), Jane Boyer (narrator)

C.A. Newsome, January 2019

In 2011, I found this mystery by a first-time author, set in a dog park--specifically, Mount Airy Dog Park, in Cincinnati, Ohio. I picked it up out of curiosity. It was a first-time effort, but basically solid. It featured interesting, likable characters, real dogs written by someone who knows dogs, and a pretty decent mystery that went some interesting places.

When I found Drool Baby, second in the series, a few years later, Newsome had grown and learned as a writer. Fewer rough spots. Greater depth. Still great dogs and a good mystery. And yes, the dogs survive. There are now six books in the series, and Newsome looked back at the first book, and decided it needed a revamp. It's well worth it.

The story here isn't much changed from the original version, but it's a little longer, a little more in depth, and in some respects just makes more sense. Lia's relationship with her boyfriend, Luthor Morrissey, and why she put up with it, seems clearer. The other dog park regulars are still who they were, but the characterization is stronger, with fewer instances of veering into the "over the top."

Luthor's death is shocking, but we see it through Lia's discovery of his body, not the deed itself. Detective Peter Dourson remains the solid, professional cop who takes in Luther's dog, Viola, "just temporarily," to keep her out of the shelter until Luther's family or someone else comes forward to claim her permanently. Really. He's serious. Just temporary. He means it. And all the dog park regulars are not surprised by who gives Viola a permanent home.

Meanwhile, as Peter investigates the murder, and Lia works through her very tangled feelings about Luthor's death almost immediately after her breakup with him, we get alternating chapters inside the head of the killer. We know she's a serial killer because she reflects on what worked in her previous "removals," and what has kept her safe, and what is a good-enough reason for a "removal." She thinks she's a good person, doing something useful, and it is absolutely convincing, and chilling.

But most of the characters are not serial killers; they're ordinary, decent people going about their lives. Lia has a career as an artist that supports her. She and Bailey, her gardener friend, are working on a formal garden for Catherine, a dog park regular who is a good deal more well off than the average for the park, moving in social circles that could give both of them a career boost. We see Terry with his conservative politics and his deep knowledge of guns, and another regular, with rather more liberal politics and her own areas of expertise, engaging in an exchange of bad put-down jokes with the contest scored by another regular.

And all the while, we know the serial killer is lurking.

This was an enjoyable book, and pretty good, in its original form. Now, it's a very good book. Recommended.

Also, please note that the first four books are now offered as a bundle, in Kindle format, and in audio format.

I received a free copy of the audiobook from the author, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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