Book Review: Blood Red, White and Blue by Kathleen Delaney

Blood Red, White and Blue
Mary McGill Canine Mystery #3
Kathleen Delaney
Severn House, July 2017
ISBN 978-0-7278-8689-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

It’s the 4th July and the town celebrations have gone off without a hitch. Except for the body in the oak grove, shot in the back. The unfortunate victim was a visitor to the town. Mary McGill and her cocker spaniel Millie had seen him only that morning, staring in the window of Lowell’s Jewellery store, his German Shepherd, Ranger, at his side. Could the diamond and sapphire necklace which caught his attention have some connection with his untimely death? What brought him to Santa Louisa in the first place?

Having agreed to look after Ranger temporarily, Mary is unwillingly drawn into the murder investigation. She never dreamed that her enquiries would lead her into serious danger … and more murder.

Santa Louisa’s 4th of July celebrations are underway when Mary and Millie have a casual meeting with Ian Miller and his German Shepherd, Ranger, in front of the jewelry store. Everything is pleasant among humans and dogs and, certainly, Mary has no inkling that the next time she sees him, Mr. Miller will be dead. The only good thing about it is that the glorious fireworks show went off without a hitch but, of course, it’s probably those very fireworks that covered up the shot.

Mary and her “crew” are soon doing what they do so well, sniffing out clues and even being a fair amount of help to Mary’s nephew-in-law, Police Chief Dan Dunham. Dan is a police chief with sense, recognizing that there are some things civilians can do better than the police can while he’s also cognizant of the dangers inherent in murder investigations. Mary is the one who’s most likely to figure things out with the information that comes her way but she couldn’t do it without the help of her family and close friends.

Mary is such a delight, thoughtful and intelligent without being ridiculously nosy, and she never lets the routines of life get pushed aside by snooping. Instead, she does much of her thinking about a crime while having her morning coffee or taking Millie for a walk. This time, there are repercussions beyond the community because it turns out that Ian was with the California Bureau of Investigations and was in Santa Louisa following up on leads about a series of jewelry store robberies. His death naturally brings state investigators to town, some helpful, some not but, once Mary suddenly sees the truth, it’s Ranger who becomes so very important.

Spending a few hours with Mary McGill and her friends and family is always so nice and I have fun with these people while I appreciate the camaraderie and the feelings they all have for each other, canines as well as humans. Kathleen Delaney‘s series is one of my favorites and I really, really wish that I could have their next adventure right now 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

Advertisements

Book Review: Whiskers and Bear by Giacomo Giammatteo

Whiskers & Bear
Life on the Farm, Book 1
Giacomo Giammatteo
Inferno Publishing Company, April 2017
ISBN 978-1-940313-38-2
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

This is the true story of Bear and Whiskers, two dogs who came to our sanctuary. For 10 years they lived a life like no other, roaming free and living off what they caught in the hundred acres of woods surrounding us. And they ruled the streets of the neighborhood, daring any dog—or human—to intrude upon their territory.   People complained. Some people even thought the dogs should be put to sleep. What these people didn’t realize is that we were the ones encroaching on Bear’s territory. This was his street and his neighborhood. And he had recruited Whiskers to help him rule it.   

************

Go ahead, grab that box of tissues ’cause you’re gonna need ’em before you finish this book. Heck, before you finish the first chapter, but you’re also gonna laugh and smile and feel generally pretty darned good about people like Giacomo and his wife, Mikki, as well as their wonderful 4-footed companions.

Animal stories are nearly impossible to dislike unless they’re full of abuse and other bad stuff but I knew before I signed on that this would not be that type at all. What lifts this book above many others of its ilk is the relationship these two dogs have with each other, their loyalty to and love for each other, and their dedication to protecting their humanfolk without actually living with them. This aloofness, for lack of a much better word, is different from what we normally see; after all, dogs are either usually very attached to humans or they run in semi-wild packs. Neither is the case with Bear and his pal, Whiskers—they care for and protect their humans and all the other sanctuary animals but they do it on their own terms. And I fell madly in love 😉

Whiskers and Bear have a unique, charming, totally heartwarming story and I urge you to buy this little book. It isn’t big, won’t take you more than an hour or two to read, but you’ll be so glad you did and you’ll help the sanctuary, too 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2017.

************

Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // Indiebound

************

An Excerpt from Whiskers & Bear

Another Grave

I climbed up onto the tractor, a Kubota 4630, with a six-foot bucket on the front. It was a powerful machine, and we’d put it through the hoops more than a few times. What I mean is that my wife Mikki and I had dug a lot of graves.

I tied an old cloth diaper around my forehead and draped the end of it over the top of my bald head. There wasn’t much better than a cotton cloth for keeping sweat out of your eyes, or the sun from burning your head. I turned the key and revved the engine. After letting it idle a moment, I lifted the bucket and drove toward the south side of the property where Mikki was waiting for me. She’d already gotten a few blankets and a clean sheet. For this one, she’d brought a pillow, too.

I reached up and wiped my eyes. I was getting damn tired of burying things.

An old white pickup crept down the gravel driveway, coming to a stop near the fence.

A neighbor leaned out and hollered. “What’s goin’ on?”

I wished he’d have kept going.

“Nothin’,” I said, but not loud enough for him to hear.

The door opened, and he stepped out and walked over to the fence, using his right hand to shield his eyes from the sun as he peered over the top rail.

“What are you doin’?”

I could see there was no getting away from it. I muttered my answer a few times so my voice wouldn’t crack when I yelled.

“Diggin’ a grave,” I hollered back.

“A grave? Which one died?”

Which one? That’s what it had come to for most of the neighbors and relatives and friends. Which one died. As if it didn’t matter. As if having forty-five animals made it easier to deal with when one of them died.

He came in through the side gate and headed in my direction. He walked slowly, which gave me time to compose myself. It’s never easy to bury a friend, but this one…this one was special.

Mikki walked over to me. “He’s just trying to help.”

I nodded.

I don’t need his help, I thought, but the fact of the matter was I could probably use it.

It hadn’t rained in weeks, and the damn Texas ground was as hard as concrete. Even if the tractor did cut through, it could only go so deep; we’d have hand work to do at the bottom.

Our neighbor was about twenty feet away. He took off his hat and swiped at his forehead. It was a scorcher today and had been for a month or so.

“Who was it?” he asked.

I couldn’t say, but I managed to gesture toward Mikki. She lifted the corner of the blanket so he could see.

“Oh shit!” he said. “I’m sorry.”

“Thanks,” I said.

He unbuttoned his shirt and grabbed a shovel I had leaning against a small oak tree. “Might as well get this done.”

I nodded again. He was right, of course, but I was in no hurry to put another friend in the ground. I cranked the engine up a little higher, shoved the tractor into low gear, and positioned the bucket for the first scoop of dirt. The bucket hit the ground with a metallic thud. It didn’t do much more than break the surface.

“Whew!” the neighbor said. “Going to be a long day.”

“That’s for sure.”

“How long have they been with you?” he asked.

They. I thought about what he said. I would have laughed if not for the circumstances. Everyone referred to the two of them as one. They or them. Bear and Whiskers. Whiskers and Bear. It was a cold day in July if anyone mentioned one without the other.

I handed him my bottle of water; he looked thirsty.

“They’ve been with us a long time. A damn long time.”

***

Excerpt from Whiskers and Bear by Giacomo Giammatteo. Copyright © 2017 by Giacomo Giammatteo. Reproduced with permission from Giacomo Giammatteo. All rights reserved.

************

A PLEA FOR HELP

Out of all the books I’ve written (almost thirty), this one is closest to my heart. For twenty-four years, my wife and I have run an animal sanctuary, providing homes for dogs, cats, pigs, horses, and even a wild boar. I don’t know how many animals we’ve had through the years in total, but at one time, we had as many as fifty-five.

I don’t often ask for help, but this is important. We have run this sanctuary for twenty-four years using our own money—no donations to speak of. The feed bill alone was more than a thousand dollars per month. And there are plenty of other bills, vets, fencing, shelter, medical supplies, and more.

In early 2015, I had two heart attacks followed by two strokes. The result was that it left me disabled. Now it is difficult to continue paying for everything.

I wrote this book in the hopes that it would sell enough to help with the funds, as all sales go to the animals. And I mean that—every penny goes to help support them—nothing for anyone else.

************

About the Author

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. He also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

When Giacomo isn’t writing, he’s helping his wife take care of the animals on their sanctuary. At last count they had 45 animals—11 dogs, a horse, 6 cats, and 26 pigs.

Oh, and one crazy—and very large—wild boar, who takes walks with Giacomo every day and happens to also be his best buddy.

Visit Giacomo: Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads

************

Follow the tour:

4/01 Author Of The Month @ CMash Reads
4/08 Author Of The Month @ CMash Reads
4/15 Author Of The Month @ CMash Reads
4/22 Author Of The Month @ CMash Reads
4/28 Review @ JBronder Book Reviews
4/29 Author Of The Month @ CMash Reads
5/01 Review @ Mochas, Mysteries and Meows
5/02 Guest post @ Mochas, Mysteries and Meows
5/03 Showcase @ Socrates Review Blog
5/05 Showcse @ Books, Dreams, Life
5/06 Review @ Buried Under Books
5/07 Guest post @ Loris Reading Corner
5/08 Interview @ BooksChatter
5/09 Showcase @ Celticladys Reviews
5/10 Showcase @ Bookalicious Traveladdict
5/11 Review @ BookLove
5/12 Review @ Jersey Girl Book Reviews
5/13 Review @ Lauras Interests
5/14 @ I am not a bookworm!

************

More Teeny Reviews

lost-in-wonderlandLost in Wonderland
The Twisted and the Brave #1
Nicky Peacock
Evernight Teen, May 2016
ISBN 978-1-77233-867-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Monsters, serial killers, and imaginary friends—being a Wonderlander can be murder… Once upon a time, Kayla was lost. Then she found Wonderland, but not the one you know. Run by ex-government agents and funded by an eccentric Silicon Valley billionaire, this Wonderland is the name of a collective of highly trained vigilantes who hunt serial killers. Now Kayla, aka Mouse, works tirelessly alongside her fellow Wonderlanders, Rabbit and Cheshire, baiting dangerous murderers. But even her extensive training hasn’t prepared her for the return of her older brother…

Shilo has spent most of his life in an insane asylum, convinced his mother was abducted by a sinister Alaskan monster who lures the lost away to feast upon their flesh. And now he’s certain that his sister is in the same monster’s crosshairs. But if Shilo is going to save what’s left of his family, he’ll have to convince his sister that maybe, just maybe, we’re all a little mad.

The retelling of fairy tales has become almost a cottage industry but, for me, the fun is in discovering how a particular author approaches the task. Now, Wonderland is not, precisely speaking, a fairy tale but, hey, it’s close enough and I quite simply loved all the oddities and eccentricities, the madness, to be found in any Wonderland, even one that involves vigilantes and serial killers. That does mean there’s a certain amount of violence and the tale is quite dark so the squeamish may want to think before reading Lost in Wonderland. Still, I believe many will like Kayla a great deal and appreciate the story as much as I did.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

house-of-silenceHouse of Silence
Sarah Barthel
Kensington Books, January 2017
ISBN 978-1-4967-0608-9
Trade Paperback
From the publisher—

Oak Park, Illinois, 1875. Isabelle Larkin’s future—like that of every young woman—hinges upon her choice of husband. She delights her mother by becoming engaged to Gregory Gallagher, who is charismatic, politically ambitious, and publicly devoted. But Isabelle’s visions of a happy, profitable match come to a halt when she witnesses her fiancé commit a horrific crime—and no one believes her.

Gregory denies all, and Isabelle’s mother insists she marry as planned rather than drag them into scandal. Fearing for her life, Isabelle can think of only one escape: she feigns a mental breakdown that renders her mute, and is brought to Bellevue sanitarium. There she finds a friend in fellow patient Mary Todd Lincoln, committed after her husband’s assassination.

In this unlikely refuge, the women become allies, even as Isabelle maintains a veneer of madness for her own protection. But sooner or later, she must reclaim her voice. And if she uses it to expose the truth, Isabelle risks far more than she could ever imagine.

Desperation sometimes leads to dire measures and none is more dire than pretending mental illness and landing in an asylum. In the days when treatment of mental patients was something close to horrific, such an escape would have been even riskier but Isabelle certainly couldn’t have expected to find friendship with such a woman. That in itself leads to some interesting conversations and behaviors but the overall tone wasn’t as ominous as it should have been considering the setting and the times. The appeal of the story was further lessened for me by somewhat stilted language that could have been “softened” just a little to make it more amenable to the modern reader and yet there were also occasional anachronisms that simply didn’t work. Overall, while I don’t really consider this to be one of the better historical fiction novels I’ve read, I do see potential for future works from Ms. Barthel.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

the-purloined-poodleThe Purloined Poodle
Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries
Kevin Hearne
Narrated by Luke Daniels
Audible, September 2016
Downloaded Unabridged Audio Book

From the publisher—

Thanks to his relationship with the ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan, Oberon the Irish wolfhound knows trouble when he smells it – and furthermore, he knows he can handle it.

When he discovers that a prizewinning poodle has been abducted in Eugene, Oregon, he learns that it’s part of a rash of hound abductions all over the Pacific Northwest. Since the police aren’t too worried about dogs they assume have run away, Oberon knows it’s up to him to track down those hounds and reunite them with their humans. For justice! And gravy!

Engaging the services of his faithful Druid, Oberon must travel throughout Oregon and Washington to question a man with a huge salami, thwart the plans of diabolical squirrels, and avoid, at all costs, a fight with a great big bear.

But if he’s going to solve the case of the Purloined Poodle, Oberon will have to recruit the help of a Boston terrier named Starbuck, survive the vegetables in a hipster pot pie, and firmly refuse to be distracted by fire hydrants and rabbits hiding in the rose bushes.

At the end of the day, will it be a sad bowl of dry kibble for the world’s finest hound detective, or will everything be coming up sirloins?

There are a handful of series that I always read by listening because I’m so entranced with the narrator and the Iron Druid Chronicles is one of those. Further, I also always get the ebooks because there are foreign and/or mythological names and terms that I can’t always pick up by listening so I play the audio books and then use the ebook to verify those words.

Besides the delights of Luke Daniels‘ narration, Oberon, a goofy Irish wolfhound, is one of my all-time favorite characters. Oberon talks to his druid pal, Atticus, and is totally charming while being very dog-like, focused largely on his next meal, and he has an eye for the ladies, particularly of the French poodle variety. When he finds out that a nefarious ring of dognappers is operating in the Northwest, he naturally feels it’s his duty to sniff out these bad guys so off he goes, with a little help from his friends. What ensues is an entertaining story with a satisfying resolution and I smiled all the way to the end. As always, Oberon’s voice alone had me going and I highly recommend readers who haven’t tried the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne listen to this tale for a taste of the joy you’ll get from these audio books.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

Book Review: Curtains for Miss Plym by Kathleen Delaney

Curtains for Miss PlymCurtains for Miss Plym
A Mary McGill Mystery #2
Kathleen Delaney
Severn House, April 2016
ISBN 978-0-7278-8574-6
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Preparations for Santa Louisa’s annual spring rummage sale are thrown into chaos when organizer Mary McGill and her devoted cocker spaniel Millie come across a dead body on the premises. Still wearing her pink nightdress and slippers, what on earth was Miss Emilie Plym doing in a locked church hall in the dead of night? And who on earth would want to harm a sweet-natured but confused elderly lady who wouldn’t hurt a fly?

As Mary questions the victim’s nearest and dearest, she discovers that not everyone had Miss Plym’s best interests at heart, and that at least one of those who should have been caring for her is hiding a shocking secret.

Readers of cozy mysteries have varying tastes and expectations, which should come as no surprise because the term “cozy” can cover quite a wide spectrum. For me, a good cozy features an intelligent sleuth who thinks her or his way through to the solution of a crime rather than falling into the clues accidentally. She is too smart to put herself in dangerous situations—those dangerous situations do exist but she’s not necessarily in them because she’s snooping—and she has legitimate reasons for being involved in an investigation rather than just being nosy or thinking she can do the job better than the local cops (unless, of course, she really can and there are some good cozies like that). Another element that appeals to me is a setting in which the reader is not expected to believe that the amateur sleuth knows every single person in town no matter how small it might be.

I found all of that in the first book in this series, Purebred Dead, and I’m very happy to say that Kathleen Delaney has done it again with Curtains for Miss Plym. Mary McGill has reason to be at the church hall very early one morning but she certainly didn’t anticipate finding any dead body, much less that of a sweet, elderly woman in her nightclothes. What on earth could provoke someone to kill Miss Emilie?

Mary becomes even more involved when the chief of police, Dan Dunham, asks her and his wife, Ellen, to go to the Plym residence to wait with the family and household help until he can leave the crime scene. Why does he ask Mary to do this? As it happens, she is Ellen’s aunt and Dan is well aware that she’s a calming presence and can be trusted to unobtrusively look for signs of odd behavior. As it turns out, there are some questionable people in Miss Emilie’s life including family members but is it possible any of them could wish her harm or could it be some one else in town? And why was she taking such large withdrawals from her trust fund?

Plenty of clues along the way keep the investigation moving along and, while the end result is not particularly surprising, that doesn’t really matter. The real strength of this series is the characters, primary and secondary, and most of them come to feel like old friends, people you don’t mind spending time with. Don’t get me wrong, though—they’re not all squeaky clean and living on the side of the angels and for that we can be very glad. No one wants to be surrounded by a town full of goody two shoes, do we?

There are quiet little touches that added to my understanding of the characters as well as my overall enjoyment of the story, things like Miss Emilie’s attachment to Willis, a stuffed dog, and the way so many people in town had taken it upon themselves to get her home when she wandered. I also really appreciated the passages in which Mary talks through her thinking process with her dog, Millie. No, Millie does not help solve the crime in any way but it’s very natural for any pet owner, especially one who lives only with the pet, to talk to the animal without expecting the animal to talk back. It’s just a good way to hash things out before coming to conclusions and those talks with Millie eventually bear fruit. It should also be noted that Millie has an important role to play beyond being a sounding board.

Now, are there things about Mary or the story that are not high on my list? Yes, mostly the fact that Mary is just a little too, well, good. The woman is practically a saint and that can get just a teensy bit old but, when you get right down to it, I can’t help liking Mary a lot  😉 I hope she and Millie and the whole town of Santa Louisa will be around for a long time.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2016.

Book Review: Purebred Dead by Kathleen Delaney

Purebred DeadPurebred Dead
A Mary McGill Mystery #1
Kathleen Delaney
Severn House, August 2015
ISBN 978-0-7278-8501-2
Hardcover

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.

Book Reviews: Yappy Hour by Diana Orgain and Faux Paw by Sofie Kelly

Yappy HourYappy Hour
Diana Orgain
Minotaur Books, November 2015
ISBN 978-1-250-06911-5
Hardcover

Maggie has left NYC and her life as a financial adviser (thank you, economic turn-down) to return to her hometown, Pacific Cove, CA, and apply for a purser’s berth at a local cruise line. But before she can, her sister Rachel texts, asking her to take over The Wine and Bark, Rachel’s bar, which caters to a dog-loving clientele. Maggie isn’t a dog person and knows nothing about mixing drinks or running a business and there’s a dead body on the tile floor of the bar. What is she to do?

This book has a slapstick vibe. I thought of Evanovich right away. Maggie sometimes acts like an idiot, but at least she knows it. Rachael’s customers, especially Yolanda, and her horse-race-mad Uncle Ernest, AKA Grunkly, provide plenty of complications as she tries to figure out who killed Dan, a man Rachel once dated, now possibly her enemy. And where is Rachel? On a cruise? Eloping? Running from the cops? A hunky policeman and a hunky chef-next-door add even more complications for our heroine.

I enjoyed the story and the setting. Yolanda’s Beepo, a Yorkie who behaves badly at every opportunity, made me laugh. He also made me glad I have a sweet, friendly Papillion. I’d happily read another book about Maggie and her new world.

Reviewed by Marilyn Nulman, October 2015.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Faux PawFaux Paw
A Magical Cats Mystery #7
Sofie Kelly
Obsidian, October 2015
ISBN 978-0-451-47215-1
Mass Market Paperback

Librarians are my heroes. And I love cats. Especially magical cats, like Owen and Hercules. So I was happy to find Sofie Kelly‘s latest book about Kathleen Paulson and her boys. A traveling art exhibit is about to grace Mayville Height’s library. As library director, Kath is excited and a bit nervous. If all goes well, the show will benefit the library and the local artists who were invited to contribute to it. But disaster crashes her hopes. Kath finds the exhibit’s curator dead on the library floor. Murdered.

This is a small-town mystery, so Kath knows who to ask about this and that as she tries to help her policeman boyfriend discover the killer. Ryan has built an interesting cast of characters who help move the investigation forward, or shove it sideways. I was glad to see old friends and meet some new ones.

Though magical (Owen can become invisible, Hercules can walk through walls,) they are still cats, with all the charm and all the ability to frustrate and annoy of their kind. They are feuding. Why is another mystery to be solved, if possible.

I was happy to return to Mayville, where friends help each other and the gossip is not toxic. Most of the time. I recommend this book.

Reviewed by Marilyn Nulman, October 2015.

Book Review: Unleashed by Liz Coley

UnleashedUnleashed
Tor Maddox #1
Liz Coley
CreateSpace, May 2015
ISBN 978-1508860808
Trade Paperback

From the author—

When sixteen-year old Torrance Olivia Maddox, self-confessed news junkie, figures out that the mysterious and deadly New Flu is being spread by dogs, she has one question—if the danger is that obvious to her, why hasn’t the government revealed the truth and taken action? Her search for the answer will take her farther than she ever imagined. But then again, she never imagined that man’s best friend could become public enemy number one, that men in black might show up in her cozy suburban neighborhood, that she’d spend her sixteenth birthday as a teenaged runaway, and that her effort to save one dog would become a mission to save them all.

It all starts when Tor reads a conspiracy blog without really paying attention. It sticks in her mind, though—does this blogger really think dogs are spreading pestilence and the government is covering it up? Why haven’t her beloved news venues mentioned anything about this strange new flu and its possible connection to man’s best friend? Surely her beloved Cocoa isn’t about to become an enemy  of humanity!

Tor is a teen I’d like to call my own although she really is almost too good to be true. Intelligent, pretty, comfortable in her own body, bighearted, kind, enjoys learning vocabulary, so forth and so on and, yet, she doesn’t come across as a goody two shoes. Tor does have a few failings such as being a bit headstrong and not always recognizing potential consequences but, after all, she’s not yet 16 years old so I think we can forgive her occasional lack of wisdom. She also has  a terrific friend, Sioux, and her brother, Rody, is a rather cool guy as brothers go. Then there are her parents who named their children after the places where they conceived said children—TMI indeed 😉

At first, Tor just follows what little news there is about the flu but everything takes on a much more ominous tone when her dad tells her about the first death in the hospital where he works. After the Men in Black show up on her doorstep and the CDC calls for doggy quarantine, Tor begins to morph into a bit of an avenging angel in defense of Cocoa and the other dogs in mortal danger. One twist follows another and Tor’s search for truth and justice soon leads to some very uncomfortable answers.

Ms. Coley has taken a serious idea and leavened it with just enough humor and fast pacing to make it highly entertaining as well as full of suspense and I think I’m going to have to read some more “adventures of Tor”. Lines like this will draw me in every time:

“Side bar. Actually, a lot of us ask this question
regularly. What were our parents thinking?”

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2015.