Under The Dog Star
by Sandra Parshall
a 2011 Poisoned Pen release,
The story is already in full-bore action when you open the book. “In the silver moonlight, the dogs appear as a dark mass moving down the hill and across the pasture.” Contrast of light and dark. Questions immediately arise. Are these dangerous dogs? Feral dogs? Where are we and who is observing this? Why should we care?
In the hands of this careful, experienced writer, you know you are in for a wild ride. Veterinarian, Rachel Goddard, runs an animal clinic in the mountains of Virginia, a place where people are used to taking care of their problems in direct fashion. Wild dogs threatening livestock? Never mind they are or were somebody’s pet, shoot ‘em. This is anathema to Rachel and she mounts a county-wide attempt to trap and rescue the dogs before they are shot. The county is thrown into an uproar and her competence is questioned when a prominent physician is discovered with his throat torn out and plenty of evidence that a dog was the culprit.
Rachel’s lover, Tom Bridger, a deputy sheriff in the county is worried about Rachel’s safety as he struggles to understand the crime. Both Rachel and Bridger come up against one of them most dysfunctional families I have ever read about. There are other complications and false trails that have to be dealt with. The author handles dog fighting and other crimes is a forthright yet sympathetic manner. Readers will get the vivid pictures the author draws, but won’t have to wallow in the degradation. Parshall makes her points cleanly and evocatively, just as she illuminate the settings, both by contrast and depiction.
There were times when I wanted to grab Rachel and inject a little backbone into her and Bridger is sometimes entirely too controlling. Nevertheless, this is a strong, well-written chiller with crackling dialogue, great characters and a powerful resolution.