Working for a veterinarian while he and his wife are on a world cruise, Dr. Kate Turner feels like she's finally getting acclimated to the house call-paying practice in upstate New York. Well... she does until she pays a scheduled call to an estate owned by a couple who breeds champion Cavalier King Charles spaniels. Instead of the tea she expected, Kate finds the couple dead and all twenty-seven dogs running amok inside the house.
The police think it's a murder-suicide, but when Kate proves that the most famous champion in the group is missing, she knows something else is at work here. Since the police don't put much store in what she's trying to tell them, Kate conducts her own investigation in between house calls-- and finds that almost everyone in town wanted the couple dead. She's got to find the killer because her next house call could be her last.
Muzzled won the Poisoned Pen Press's 2013 Discover Mystery Contest, and I can see why. The mystery is a corker. When the killer was revealed, I could've slapped myself upside the head because the clues were there from the beginning. I'm going to blame my lack of prowess on two things: Eileen Brady's wonderful sense of humor, and the way she weaves the life of a veterinarian into her story.
One of my pet peeves about so many "niche" cozy mysteries-- those books with themes like knitting or running a B&B or cooking for example-- is the fact that the theme is just a thin veneer to hook the reader and has very little or nothing to do with the action in the book. If I pick up one of these books and the main character is supposed to be a glass blower, she'd better be able to convince me that she knows how to create something in glass. Same goes with knitting or any of the dozens of themes (or hooks) that are out there. That is certainly no problem in Muzzled. Eileen Brady was a vet for many years and still has a hand in the business. There is no doubt in your mind that Kate's a vet because of all the house calls she makes.
Make no mistake, those house calls can be a riot, whether Kate's saving a hamster from the maw of a vacuum cleaner or meeting a woman who dresses like her Chihuahua. These scenes provide verisimilitude, they provide humor, they provide knowledge on pet care and on the characters in the book, and they provide clues to the mystery. I enjoyed every single house call Kate Turner made.
Kate is a dedicated vet who's been experiencing a bit of man trouble. She's strong, she's smart, and it seems almost everyone who meets her thinks she's Meryl Streep. In fact her resemblance to Streep is a running joke throughout the book. If there's any problem at all with the book, it's that Kate is so strong a character that the others pale in comparison. I'm looking forward to Kate's next investigation so I can reacquaint myself with those other characters.
Naturally I have no interest at all in seeing Kate, following along on those house calls, or reading another first-in-show mystery....
Muzzled by Eileen Brady
Poisoned Pen Press © 2014
Hardcover, 250 pages
Cozy Mystery, #1 Kate Turner, DVM mystery
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen