Brought to you by OSB reviewer Jeanie
Izzy McHale wants her new Trendy Tails Pet Boutique in Merryville, Minnesota, to be the height of canine couture and feline fashions. But at the store’s opening, it turns out it’s a human who’s dressed to kill…
Izzy’s own beloved pets are dressed to the nines for the grand opening of Trendy Tails. Feisty feline Jinx is large and in charge, and happy mutt Packer is lapping up the attention. Izzy and her best friend Rena have their hands full meeting Merryville’s menagerie and serving tasty pupcakes and kitty canapes from their “barkery.” The last thing they need is the town’s local activist, Sherry Harper, scaring off customers and getting tongues wagging by picketing the event.
The two manage to stop Sherry’s protest in its tracks, but the trouble for Trendy Tails is just beginning. Sherry is found murdered in back of the shop, and Rena is immediately named as the lead suspect. Now Izzy and her furry friends have a new pet project—collaring a killer. (from Goodreads and back cover of novel)
The opening novel of the Pet Boutique Mystery series, Paws for Murder introduces the delightful Trendy Tails Pet Boutique, owned by Izzy and her her four-legged partners Packer (pug-bulldog mix) and Jinx (Norwegian Forest Cat). Rena, Izzy’s best friend and two-legged partner, makes organic pet treats for sale in the Boutique and helps make the pet-safe pet clothing designed by Izzy. Ingrid is her landlord and owner of the 3-story home that had formerly housed Ingrid’s Gift Haus and included Ingrid’s 2nd story home.
Izzy, who had studied fashion design in college, lived in the third-floor apartment with her ex-boyfriend Casey until he moved on to a Park Avenue practice after his residency was complete. When Ingrid closed her business, the Gift Haus two years after their breakup, she encouraged Izzy to sell the pet clothing she designed, and thus began the idea for Trendy Tails.
Merryville, Minnesota has an eclectic mix of residents and tourists that would sufficiently provide clientele for a variety of shops. Personally, I like any shop that caters to pets – even though my cats would never allow themselves to be dressed up, a clothing boutique for pets sounds like a fun venture! Getting healthy pet treats would definitely be a plus in a setting where one could sample or purchase a very small quantity should one have a finicky pet.
The night of the catered grand opening party of the Boutique brought many visitors to Pet Tails. One person who they wish had stayed home, however, was Sherry Harper. Sherry was the local activist, a trust-fund baby who would protest almost anything for any reason. She protested the Pet Tails because, to her, it wasn’t natural for animals to wear clothes. Sherry’s boyfriend, Nick, had a loud disagreement with her outside that evening, as did Rena. In spite of the sidewalk squabbles, it seemed the grand opening was an overall success.
Izzy and her friends were nearly done cleaning up afterwards when she took the trash out. Unfortunately she also found the body of Sherry, who had died from something that wasn’t evident at the time. And by the end of the night, Izzy’s best friend Rena was the prime suspect, particularly when it was learned that Sherry had been poisoned by water hemlock root. It was a plant native to the area that police theorized she had prepared in the cereal mix.
It was an interesting sight to see Izzy then we met her old friend, Sean, now an attorney who would represent Rena – and a blast to watch two of them pair up to find the killer. Even more fun was seeing the good-looking attorney’s well-heeled ladyfriend, also an attorney, meet Rena and Izzy, who were clearly below the social circles she liked to be seen in. Several people were considered suspects throughout the book for various reasons, and sometimes the process of eliminating them as suspects caused a few raised eyebrows from their family or friends. Finally, Izzy ‘got it’ on the night of the Halloween Howl. She was reminded, by Packer’s actions, of something mentioned by one of their neighbors. Merryville’s pets would parade their Halloween attire to win fun prizes, but would have to wait until the suspect could be questioned by – of course – Izzy. It was clear that Rena wouldn’t have to worry about a murder charge any longer – and the person that this armchair detective would have least expected was taken away in handcuffs.
I very much enjoyed Annie Knox’s first book in the Pet Boutique Mystery series. Izzy was likeable in many ways, most especially for being a pet-lover. I had empathy with her when she thought about the years she had been away at college – how even though she stayed in touch with Rena and others, she realized that she had not known much about Rena’s life during those years yet returned to Merryville thinking that they were picking up where they left off. How she felt when realizing that Rena had challenges and changes that she knew nothing about, but Rena knew all about hers. How she felt when realizing that Sean had been right about Casey all those years ago. And how life was for her sisters and parents. Izzy’s work to get Rena off of the suspect list was amazing, and her thought processes interesting.
For me, it was a challenge to remember all the people, their family members and friendships, and other details noted about their lives. There were more than I could easily recall while reading this novel. Sometimes I appreciate seeing short lists of the “players” in the front of a book, especially as I get a bit older! Perhaps a well-done map of the main street with the storefronts in relation to each other, or any other creative way to help remind us of each other.
I would recommend this new series to pet lovers who enjoy small-town life, creative businesses that cater to pets, and an interesting assortment of passionate, eccentric people. And, of course, to everyone who enjoys a small-town whodunit! I, for one, am looking forward to Groomed for Murder, the second book in the series.