A Mary McGill Mystery #1
Severn House, August 2015
From the publisher—
Pillar of the community, Mary McGill has a finger in every pie, a place on every committee. She’s the one the townsfolk can count on when they need help. Everything Mary organizes runs smoothly – apart, that is, from the town’s traditional Christmas pageant. For the festivities are rudely interrupted by the discovery of a blood-stained corpse lying in the manger. Cowering beside the body is a small black-and-white puppy.
Two local children report seeing a shadowy figure fleeing from the scene – but there are no clues as to the murderer’s identity. If Mary could only find out what the puppy was doing there, she would be one step closer to finding the killer. As someone who knows nothing about dogs, purebred or otherwise, Mary had better learn – and fast – before she and the children become the next victims.
Like many other mystery aficionados, I enjoy a good cozy set in a small town where everybody seems to know everybody else, where the sleuth has some common sense and where the murderous activity turns out to be a puzzle that keeps me guessing for a while. Such is Purebred Dead and this one has the added attraction of a pet-related theme that is quite evident in real life, the very profitable world of dog breeding.
As in many mysteries of this type, character development is paramount and I have to say I found Mary to be very appealing in her normalcy. Here’s a woman we’ve all run into before, the retiree who throws herself into civic and charitable work first because she believes she should but also because she simply can’t NOT do it. Mary is actually a little annoying because she complains, very mildly, that she just can’t take on one more task and then she does anyway. That annoyance is overshadowed, though, by her intelligence and her determination to set things right as well as she can while not interfering with police efforts.
Other characters are also quite likeable, especially the children and Mary’s family, and the canine element is interesting as well as educational. I don’t think it’s farfetched that dog breeding would be at the core of the crime as this has become a sort of cottage industry with too many opportunities for abuse, fraud, greed, etc. Puppy mills abound and small towns are certainly not immune to the dark side of breeding; they may even be more likely settings since official scrutiny is probably less intense.
Killing a veterinarian, even one who is disgraced, is a bit unusual since there’s no immediately apparent motive and Mary doesn’t have any particular expertise in investigating crime nor does she know much about the dog world. What she does offer is a logical mind and concern for truth plus she knows the people in her town. It’s not surprising that the chief of police, who happens to be her nephew, recognizes that Mary might be an asset in his investigation and I really appreciated the mutual respect between Mary and Dan, not always evident in a small town cozy.
The solution itself is not especially deep but it’s a good puzzle full of potential suspects and motives. Ms. Delaney is an accomplished mystery author with multiple books to her credit and it shows in this new series, one I’ll be following with much enjoyment. Besides, how can I resist Millie? 😉
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2015.