Pigface and the Perfect Dog
Oak Grove Mysteries Book 2
By Judy Alter
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
A college student, dead, in an empty pasture. Rifle-carrying strangers in the local grocery store. An irresistable and loveable Labrador puppy. These add up to trouble for Susan Hogan, associate professor of English at Oak Grove (Texas) University, and her partner, Jake, Chief of Campus Security. Susan’s independent investigation involves a shooting, a break-in, vandalism, threats, a clandestine spy trip to the woods, and an attempted kidnapping. Throughout, she trips over—and trips up—law enforcement investigation, to Jake’s ongoing frustration. Small college towns just aren’t always as peaceful as they are billed. (from Goodreads)
How could I not read a cozy mystery with a title such as this? The description sounded worth finding out who Pigface is (and I’m not tellin’!) The characters are engaging, a couple of whom I will definitely want to catch up with in the next book in the series. This is second in the Oak Grove Mystery series, and can be read as a standalone. There are plot twists and surprises throughout. These alone make this author a fresh new voice in the cozy mystery genre.
Oak Grove, Texas, is a university town with all the charm of a small town and what was thought to be a safe place for one’s kids to live at. All that changes, however, as a second murder is discovered, this time the body of a local university student out in a field, rifle at his side. Chief of Campus Police Jake is called to the site; he assesses it and calls county Sheriff Wainwright as it is in his jurisdiction.
Jake’s girlfriend Susan, an associate professor at OGU, feels keenly the loss of any student’s life, as does Jenny, her beloved aunt who raised her after her mother died. Aunt Jenny is the only one with good news; Gus, the assistant manager of the grocery store, brought her a long-legged adorable pup she named Lucy. He saw the pup needed TLC, Gus knew where to take her. Jenny wasn’t going to let her go. Nor was John Jackson, retired judge and Jenny’s gentleman friend. As soon as Jake sees Lucy, the longing he’s had for a dog surfaces and he immediately starts working on Susan, sure that if they have a dog, the two will be ready to move in together.
Susan has many things on her mind. Like who the rifle and ammo-totin’ guys are who are being seen in stores in their West Texas town. They were stretching the open-carry policy to the limit while frightening or angering most of the residents. Jesse, the student who died wasn’t a scholar by any stretch, but he was the brother of Gus from the market. It was no secret that their father had been a hard man to live with, much less be raised by. Their mom is devastated at the news, but Gus’ father keeps her isolated.
Susan asks questions around the university, finding Amanda, Jesse’s girlfriend. He had broken up with her just days before the shooting, and Susan is almost certain the girl is pregnant. Within days after the shooting, there is a parade of marching protesters in Oak Grove, and Jake is deputized to help the local police department with crowd control. Not the usual kind of protest, it was a string of people marching to protect the right to open carry rifles or guns. Among them were the two men Susan saw in the market. There are also two women. It was originally thought to have been accidental, but there had to have been a reason that one of the women shoots Jake in the gut. Susan had just arrived to hear the shot and see Jake on the ground. This kind of gunshot wound isn’t always survived.
The main characters are well-defined, and easy to like. While I appreciate Susan’s courage and loyalty, I like Jenny best, I think, as she is the foundation of their lives – Susan, Jake, John, and now, Gus. She is one of those Southern ladies I wish I were like. She shows her love and support through food and time together. She is Susan’s “safe place”, so it is a surprise of sorts to see how much the little lady leans on the judge now when scared or weary. Jake and the judge have the persona of public figures who uphold the law and are “fixers”, each in their own way. I was impressed how well Jake and Dirk, the local police department detective work together, as that was not always the case. Susan sees a new side to a couple people. She is as strong as she wants others to see her, even if she doesn’t think through the situations she puts herself in.
The story is unique in some ways, with twists that grab a reader by surprise. There were a couple things this reader saw coming, but a few things I didn’t see coming. The language was kind of stronger than in the typical cozy, but was not out of proportion. There are many things behind the scenes that are positive. The bad guy(s) seem to be elusive and without motive for quite some time, but a few surprises at the end await Jesse’s murderer and various other crimes. I was very impressed by the level of detail – just right – and the appeal of this novel that, despite the title, grabbed hold of my attention at the beginning and held it through the end.I highly recommend this mystery to those who enjoy college towns, a West Texas locale, and – of course – Pigface and the perfect dog!