By Lauren Hope
Author Website: laurenhope(.)net
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Reese Sheppard has worked for a decade building her business and unshakable reputation to create a thriving, no-kill sanctuary for the animals of Sullivan County, Tennessee. Then, a crime spree begins—spreading three counties wide and growing in violence with each new victim, all of whom point the finger at Reese as the culprit.
Not only facing jail time, the allegations also threaten to ruin everything Reese has worked for professionally and personally. But evidence doesn’t lie. And it’s all pointing to no one else but her . (Goodreads)
What an amazing novel! I’m not sure how I’ve not heard of this author sooner, as she gifts us with a very well-written, with engaging characters and a very compelling mystery that was hard to solve. While I had an idea about what was occurring, I didn’t know who or why. Nor did I know just how complex it was until the author revealed all at the very end. There are surprises and heartbreaking losses, with even the police at a loss of what was going on.
Reese has worked hard and built up a no-kill sanctuary, Rescued, primarily for dogs, while cultivating volunteers and regular donors of much-needed cash for staff salaries, veterinary care, special needs. She works closely with the police and the DA as a witness in animal cruelty crimes. Office Boone Jones has been a long-time friend who wants to take their friendship to the next level, but Reese has a no date policy. She loves her life outside of town with the companionship of five dogs.
Rachel, who works for Sullivan County Department of Children’s Services, is Reese’s best friend. They met in a foster home years earlier and have been best friends and sisters since. Her sunny, friendly disposition is in direct opposition to Reese’s more distrustful attitude. As best friends, there is little they wouldn’t do for each other. This crisis requires Rachel’s selfless dedication to help Reese endure.
Reese meets Hunter, an eight year boy who has seen far more than most, when she is called to remove abused dogs from a home where a parent was arrested and jailed. While looking through the home and outbuildings, she finds a pitbull in need of help. Hunter, gun in hand, comes out from hiding and threatens to shoot her if she takes his friend, Jack. The more she learns about Hunter, the more she wants to make sure that he and Jack can be reunited. His future is important to Reese, but is as uncertain as hers…especially as evidence in crimes mounts against her, and then her own life is in danger.
When the crimes in question are brought to Boone with witnesses corroborating who the suspect is, he has to give it his all, despite his feelings. He wasn’t counting on an attorney taking her side and looking into the matter. The handsome Cormick Shaw, from Ireland, quickly becomes Reese’s criminal defense attorney even as he works to make a place in her heart. Boone doesn’t have much use for him, since he has been crushin’ on Reese for over 10 years.
Three witnesses from three similar crimes give a description of Reese, right down to the scar under her eye. Each claims that a woman pulled them over, impersonating a police officer, and made them give her cash in lieu of a ticket. The third victim is especially upset, as she was forced to drive to a nearby ATM and withdraw cash to give to the officer. The crimes escalate from there, to something that anyone knowing Reese wouldn’t believe she did. Her own life becomes endangered by an unknown person, who may or may not be involved with the crimes destroying her reputation.
It is hard to have just one favorite character! Each is very well developed, so much so that I almost hear and picture them as 3D folks. Reese, Hunter, and Rachel are favorites, I think partly because of their backgrounds and in the case of Reese and Rachel, who they are today. Boone and Cormick are also amazing; they are each good investigators in their own right.
The plot twists and turns kept me busy! The author has a knack for building suspense, revealing just enough information to keep me turning pages. While cats are my favorite pets, the dogs that Rescued focuses on and are definitely future pets I could root for. Seeing the connection that Reese has with her beautiful dogs, and Hunter has with Jack, shows just how magnificent dogs as pets and friends are. There was one aspect of the crimes that I thought Boone might have figured out much sooner, but he was too close to the case. There isn’t one simple answer to whodunit, and I was completely surprised at the layers of deceit and criminal activity! All of the loose ends were tied up, quite a feat for the many strands. I highly recommend this novel to those who enjoy well-written mysteries that feature dogs and those who Rescued them.