A Catskills Pet Rescue Mystery
By Deborah Blake
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
A lottery winner uses her good fortune to save a local pet sanctuary, but when a body is discovered on the property, she just might be in the doghouse in this first book in a new, charming cozy mystery series from author Deborah Blake.
Kari Stuart’s life is going nowhere–until she unexpectedly wins the lottery. The twenty-nine-year-old instant multimillionaire is still mulling plans for her winnings when trying to rescue a bossy black kitten leads her to a semi-abandoned animal shelter. They need the cash–Kari needs a purpose.
But the dilapidated rescue is literally going to the dogs with a pending lawsuit, hard to adopt animals, and too much suspicious attention from the town’s dog warden. When the warden turns up dead outside the shelter’s dog kennels, Kari finds herself up a creek without a pooper-scooper.
With the help of some dedicated volunteers, a cute vet, and a kitten who mysteriously shows up just when she needs it, Kari must prove her innocence all while trying to save a dog on death row. Now she just needs to hope that her string of unexpected luck isn’t about to run out. (From Goodreads)
This is a paw-some first in a new series that captivated me from the start. It is also a new favorite series for me! Kari is the ultimate protagonist and amateur sleuth. Meeting Queenie, an abandoned kitten, opened new doors of possibility for Kari. I truly enjoyed the “good guys”, the setting, and the animal sanctuary. The characters are well designed, and we learn just the right amount about each one. The mystery itself is more complex than first thought and brings edge-of-the-seat intrigue.
It started with a spur-of-the-moment purchase of a lottery ticket when she went to the store for cat litter. Kari did two things that many pet lovers want to do. First, she had the winning lottery ticket. She continued to work as a waitress until she decided what she would do. When looking for a place to take the adorable kitten, as she is at the pet limit in her apartment, she learns the fate of abandoned pets in this lovely community. Second, she bought a failing animal sanctuary on a huge plot of land that the owner has to get out from under. Kari has the money to do the necessary refurbishments to the shelter and the house on the property that Daisy, the woman who opened and ran Serenity Sanctuary on a shoestring, ran out of funds to do.
One of the challenges they face is that the dog warden claims Buster, the sweetest Pittie Daisy has ever had in her care, seriously bit someone when he got out under the fence recently. She has to go to court and face possibly having Buster euthanized. Daisy is heartbroken but plans to stay in town to see the fight for the dog through. She will take whatever time she can afford to explain to Kari what she will need to do and what the various regulations that apply to the rescue.
Bill, the dog warden, didn’t bring what was needed to court, including the man who was bitten or a written testimony from him. Not even a name. He didn’t bring any bills showing where and when the anonymous person was treated as in the photo, it looks as though stitches were needed. The judge rescheduled for the following week.
In the parking lot afterward, Bill did his best to aggravate Kari, suggesting that she sell the sanctuary to him now before she loses it. She had a few words to share with him, too. Thankfully, she didn’t threaten him, as the judge and a few other people overheard them. Kari had allowed bullies, including those in her family, to run her life far too long, and she refuses to live that way any longer.
Later that night, Queenie woke Kari up; the dogs in the kennel were howling. She found Bill, dead. It looks like he had been digging under the fence when someone strangled him with a tool of their trade. The main suspect, according to the sheriff and Deputy Carter, is Kari! Daisy is a close second, as both women had something to lose as long as he was alive. Daisy can’t leave town, so her pregnant sister, who is expecting her to come help out, will impatiently wait for the sheriff to make an arrest or eliminate her as a suspect.
Sara, one of the volunteers at the shelter, is Kari’s now-retired English teacher. Between them, they make plans to ask questions and see who else might have had to surrender dogs for false claims or had other troubles with Bill. They find there is no shortage of suspects.
The author designed her characters with care. Kari is a delightful young woman who is intelligent and talented. She likes her hometown and being back with her best friend. As those at the shelter see her heart and hard work, they are ready to do whatever it takes to help her and the animals. Kari, Sara, and Georgia, a woman whose dog was taken from her are my favorite characters.
I can almost picture Lakeview in upstate New York, so beautifully is it described. There are sufficient plot twists and turns to keep the reader guessing! The premise of the shelter, Kari’s new kitten Queenie, and her staff and volunteers work together to make this a memorable tale. There was no simple solution to the murder; I was very surprised to see the full resolution to the crimes. I am very impressed with this author’s first cozy mystery, and I highly recommend it!