by Cynthia Chow
Details on how to win a copy of Panthers Play for Keeps at the end of this review.
An animal behaviorist and therapist with an unusual psychic talent for hearing the thoughts of animals, Pru Marlowe’s latest job has her training a service dog, Spot, before he can be assigned to his new client, Richard Haigen. Unfortunately, Spot leads Pru to a mauled body one endangered lands, which pleases her maybe boyfriend, Detective Jim Creighton, even less. The body happens to be that of Mariela Gomez, the Haigen’s maid and the death is initially blamed on a mauling by a possible cougar or other large animal. Pru is less certain and when her suspicions are confirmed by Jim, Pru feels that she must do all she can to discover the truth before she releases Spot into the Haigen household.
While Pru is able to hear the thoughts of most animals, her communication with humans proves to be much more confounding. With a con artist father and a resentful mother, Pru has always had a tenuous relationship with the law and a distinct inability to trust. This has understandably proved to be problematic in her unlikely relationship with Jim, but that doesn’t mean that Pru doesn’t feel a twinge of regret or jealously when she suspects that he may be interested in the new and attractive psychologist Dr. Laurel Kroft.
While Jim would rather that Pru remain on the sidelines of the murder investigation, he has become accustomed to her queries, especially when they involve the animals she loves. With the help of a cranky and misogynistic Bichon Frise, a ruthless but oddly ethical gangster with exquisite taste in cars, and Pru’s judgmental and cynical tabby Wallis, Pru strives to discover who is attempting to frame a wild animal for murder before trigger-happy hunters can destroy a beautiful and innocent animal.
Despite the fantastic premise of a heroine who is able to psychically communicate with animals, the novel feels surprisingly grounded in reality. Pru can hear and speak quite clearly with Wallis, but deciphering the thoughts of animals proves much more complex, as, well, they are animals. Pru herself is bristly and acerbic, but she is gradually allowing others into her life even while she must always be on the guard to prevent the reveal of her secret.
In this fourth in the Pru Marlowe Pet Noir series, author Clea Simon entertains while exploring the fascinating duties and obligations of service dogs and how focused they become to fulfilling their job. Simon brilliantly conveys how Pru does not always interpret her communications with animals correctly, and a re-reading of this mystery completely and logically reveals how the animals truly did hold the clues to solving the murders. A strong heroine who sometimes acts much too impulsively, sarcastic humor and a respect and affection for animals enhance this tightly plotted mystery where the motives for killing prove to be all too human.
To enter to win a copy of Panthers Play for Keeps, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Panthers,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 3, 2014. U.S. residents only.
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