Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Shepherd's Crook (An Animals in Focus Mystery #4)

Author:  Sheila Webster Boneham
Genre:  Mystery

ISBN: 9780738744872
Midnight Ink Publishing
336 Pages
$12.37 Amazon
October 8, 2015

Four Stars

Animal photographer  Janet MacPhail has just arrived at a sheep-herding competition with her Australian Shepherd, Jay, when she learns that two dozen sheep have disappeared.  Police think the animals have wandered off in search of greener grass, but Janet sees and hears things that convince her the sheep's owners are right - the animals have been stolen.

Janet knows she should leave the snooping to police while she attends to her own problems - new living arrangements, her mom's wedding plans, puppy and kitten antics, and extremists bent on keeping people from having pets.  But when a livestock handler turns up dead and the sheep's owner disappears, the police and a pair of thugs pay Janet way more attention than she likes.  She sets out to find answers, putting herself and those she loves in the killer's crosshairs.


Janet MacPhail has entered her dog Jay in a sheepherding competition.  While there, she notices two men around the area, apparently arguing with Ray Turnbull, the farm's livestock handler, and then Evan, the ranch's owner.  Soon it is discovered that two dozen sheep are missing, presumably stolen, and when Ray's body is found hanging in the barn, she begins to wonder if he had anything to do with the missing sheep.

But when Evan's wife Summer also disappears, Janet now thinks that maybe Summer had something to do with the missing sheep, and even though she knows she needs to stay away from the investigation, she's finding that hard to do.  Especially since Ray's dog Bonnie is gone, and no one seems to know where she is.

Then there's the matter of her mother's wedding in a couple of weeks and Janet knows she needs to find a dress for the wedding but is putting it off; and her boyfriend Tom is preparing to sell his house and move in, disrupting Janet's comfortable life of being 'just the way she wants it.'  The last kicker is her new next-door neighbor, Phil Martin, is putting a bill to the city council to limit the amount of pets one can have in their household, which doesn't sit well with Janet and her friends, all animal lovers.

Yet we find that the murder is more than it appears to be on the surface, and Janet discovers blackmail is also involved.  Because of this, she winds up putting her life in danger while she's trying to find out who killed Ray and why, where Summer is, and why she disappeared.  In the end, we are given a satisfactory conclusion to the story.  Recommended.

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