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Purebred Dead

Purebred Dead, August 2015
Mary McGill #1
by Kathleen Delaney

Severn House Publishers
Featuring: Mary McGill
256 pages
ISBN: 0727885014
EAN: 9780727885012
Kindle: B010SWR5BG
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"A cocker spaniel pup is the biggest clue of all."

Fresh Fiction Review

Purebred Dead
Kathleen Delaney

Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted July 27, 2015

Mystery Pet Lovers | Mystery Woman Sleuth

Dog lovers will be interested in this first book of the Mary McGill's series about a Christmas celebration in Santa Louisa, California. A gruesome scene unexpectedly faces Mary McGill but to counter the unpleasantness, she finds a small black and white puppy nearby and adopts it. PUREBRED DEAD is the title, and whether the pup is a purebred cocker spaniel seems moot but Cliff Matthews, the dead man, was a veterinarian - maybe not the most reliable - and other pet owners may have borne grudges against him.

Mary and her husband Dan are on their second marriages each, and it seems to be working out fine. Mary teaches home economics, so she knows all the local kids, and she's now wondering how well she knows their parents. Everyone in town is a potential suspect, including Father D'Angelo, who was at the church. While working on a food bank - to include pet food - and learning about champion dog DNA and the breeding of the designer variety cockapoos, Mary learns more about the background of the murder. Naturally, this is a big talking point in town. Wineries are big business locally but so, it seems, is selling puppies. Not everyone adheres to the best standards, and those who cut corners potentially make more money.

Many modern issues are debated as we read the mystery, in which few words are wasted. Mary is learning the subjects but her own good sense and years of experience stand her in good stead. As we meet the locals and see the food bank swell, we can't help wondering which of the apparently decent neighbours is a killer.

Kathleen Delaney has wound the threads of the tale tightly and explained concepts which may be unfamiliar. She has written five previous mysteries so readers are in good hands. As the town gears up for Christmas, the twists become livelier and characters grow stronger. PUREBRED DEAD is a great start to this series, which is just made for fans of Susan Conant and Laurien Berenson, but will also get readers unfamiliar with canine crime hooked on the theme.

Learn more about Purebred Dead


This lively cozy, set in smalltown California, is the first in a brand-new dog mystery series
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.


Mary McGill stood on top of the library steps, trying to hear the person shouting into her cell phone. She could only make out every other word. It sounded as if they said the cow had run away. She should have learned to text.

“Where did the cow go?” She listened for a minute as the growing crowd made their way through the park toward the Victorian Christmas Extravaganza on Maple Street, one block over. “Why we ever let the Maids a Milking bring in a real cow, I’ll never know. Can you catch it? It what? Oh, oh. Keep me posted.” S

e hung up, hoping Bobby Conner’s [D1] was right and he could keep the cow out of Mrs.Wittiker’s mums. She was pretty proud of those mums. Oh, well. It was a bit late for them anyway.

It was getting dark fast. Clouds were coming in. The forecast was for rain, but not until later tonight. Mary sent up a silent prayer it would hold off until at least midnight. It would take that long to get everyone out of their costumes, make sure all the animals were accounted for and back in their barnyards or kennels and any stray children found and returned to their parents. No matter how hard you tried, children strayed.

Her phone rang again. “Mary here. Everything’s fine. No, no sign of the cow. You tell Bobby to get on it. We can’t have a cow running—oh. Good. Where’s the Posada? The donkey did what? Is Luanne all right? Take care of her. She’s about as far along as Mary was when they got to Bethlehem and I have no intention of closing this event tonight birthing a real baby.” She listened a moment. “All right. I should hear the singing any time now.”

The library Mary stood outside of was in the middle of the town park, almost directly across from St. Theresa of the Little Flower Church, where the Posada was supposed to end. Mary and Joseph would finally be welcomed someplace after all of the inns set up along the procession route had rejected them. Mary would lay Baby Jesus in the manager, the children’s choir would sing a hymn, the people who had followed the procession would join in and a party would immediately commence. Libations were supposed to consist of lemonade and hot chocolate. Mary fervently hoped that was all that was served. This was the first year St. Theresa’s held the Posada in conjunction with the Victorian Christmas Extravaganza and the plan, or at least the hope, was after the singing and the breaking of the pińata, all the pilgrims would leave Main Street and move over to Maple and enjoy the extravaganza. Every house on Maple Street was lit to the hilt with Christmas lights, and almost every house offered some kind of tableau. This year it had almost gotten out of hand. The Maids a Milking were really going to try to milk that cow while the lords were leaping all around them. How they could do that every fifteen minutes while people walked up and down the street, gaping at the exhibits, she didn’t know and was afraid they didn’t either.

They weren’t the only ones taking “extravaganza” seriously. Mimes, Morris Dancers, a Barbershop Quartet, a storyteller, a group wearing Dickinson era costumes while singing Christmas Carols, even Ebenezer Scrooge, were all making an appearance. Evan Wilson played Scrooge every year. He came out on his balcony, dressed in a bathrobe and stocking cap, shaking his fist at the children, telling them to “get off my property.” Then he’d throw down gold-wrapped chocolates. The children loved it. Mary didn’t know how he did it. Evan was usually such a mild man.

The Posada would come down Maple, turn the corner on 11th, a block before the extravaganza started, continue up Main and stop on the church lawn, where the manger scene was set up, just to the right of the church steps. Joseph, portrayed by Stan Moss, led the procession, walking alongside Luanne Mendosa who portrayed Mary. She was perched worryingly on the Bates’ donkey, an animal who wasn’t mild in the least. Shepherds walked behind, followed by the Three Kings, who had thankfully not been able to come up with any camels. They were mounted instead on Irma Long’s three most elderly and unflappable mares. The townspeople came next, singing traditional Mexican, and in this case, traditional English Christmas hymns as well, pausing only to howl in disappointment each time they were refused entry by one of the Inns along the route. They should make St. Theresa’s manger scene in—Mary checked her watch—about fifteen minutes. The crowd was already moving her way. Mary hoped the baby, or rather the large doll they borrowed from Jenny Johnson, was wrapped and ready for Luanne to lie in the manger. She sighed and shifted her weight. Why she ever agreed to coordinate this mob scene, she had no idea. Yes, she did. It was either that or prance around in a reindeer costume. The choice had been clear. She surveyed the crowd and checked her cell again. All quiet.

“Mrs. McGill?”

Mary looked down at Dalia Mendosa. The child had climbed the stairs without her noticing.

“Dalia. What are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be over at the manger?”

Dalia nodded. “I was. We have the doll and everything, but he won’t get up and I don’t know what to do. Ronaldo’s there. He’s holding the doll.”

Mary surveyed the ten year old and slightly shook her head. “What are you talking about?”

“It’s Dr. Mathews. He’s lying in the manger, asleep, I think. He won’t get up.”

The child’s eyes were large and a little frightened.

“Old Dr. Mathews? The vet? Are you sure?”

Dalia nodded, her large green eyes wide with apprehension. “We called his name, but he won’t get up.”

Oh, lord. Cliff Mathews. He’d been so good too. Why did he have to pick this night, of all nights, to fall off the wagon? Why did he have to pass out in the manager? She clicked on her cell. “Tony? I think we have a problem. Can you meet me at the manger? No. St. Theresa’s. Now. Cliff’s been drinking again and it looks like he’s passed out in it. The Posada will be here in just a few minutes. I can’t get him out of there by myself.” She listened a few minutes. “Thanks.” She hung up and took Dalia’s hand. “Let’s go.”

They crossed the street with some difficulty. People were everywhere. Strollers decorated with battery pack Christmas lights were pushed by parents who weren’t looking where they were going; dogs on leashes, even though outlawed, wound themselves between people’s legs, doing their best to trip someone. Traffic lights were off tonight and the sea of people that flowed in all directions, laughing, talking, kept Mary and Dalia from making much progress. Finally, they stood in front of the church. The lawn was clear of spectators. There was, so far, nothing to see, but as soon as the Posada got closer…Was that singing coming their way?

“Where is he?”

Dalia pointed to a rough-built lean-to, open to the street. Inside, where the manger was set up and where the animals were housed, was in shadow. Spotlights were ready, sitting at both the inside and outside corners, for the arrival of Mary. The place would radiate light, the North Star would shine from the oak tree and angels would appear. Now, everything was in shadow. Mary could just make out the outline of what looked like a goat. It bleated as she came up. A couple of other animals hung their heads over small pens, staring at the figure that overflowed the manager in the middle of the display, waiting for Mary and Joseph to appear.

“Cliff Mathews, you promised.” Mary let go of Dalia’s hand and marched up to the manager. “Get up right this minute. How you could—“

She stopped abruptly. Cliff wasn’t going to get up, now or ever again. He lay in the middle of the manger, eyes staring up at nothing, the shadows failing to hide the front of his gray hoodie stained bright red.

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