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Available 4.15.24


Beaglemania, March 2011
Pet Rescue #1
by Linda O. Johnston

Berkley Prime Crime
Featuring: Lauren Vancouve
298 pages
ISBN: 0425240215
EAN: 9780425240212
Kindle: B004H0M8MC
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
Add to Wish List


"A terrific debut of a new interesting and believable cozy series"

Fresh Fiction Review

Linda O. Johnston

Reviewed by Betty Cox
Posted April 11, 2011

Mystery Pet Lovers

Lauren Vancouver is the head of HotRescues a no kill animal shelter funded generously by Dante DeFrancisco, owner of HotPets, a chain of pet supply stores. Lauren met Dante through her friend, Kendra Ballantyne, who is an attorney, pet sitter, and Dante's special lady.

Efram Kiley had been working at HotRescues as part of a legal settlement. Efram's badly abused dog was re-homed by HotRescues after the dog was completely well and the owner could not be found. Efram sued the shelter and Dante, and a compromise was worked out that as long as Efram worked for Lauren and learned how to properly care for an animal, Dante would pay him a substantial sum in installments. In the event Efram didn't live up to his end of the agreement, the payments would stop. When a filthy and over crowded puppy mill is raided, Efram is caught trying to throw Beagle puppies down a storm drain leading to the ocean. Lauren had been called in to help where she could with the abused and sick animals. As far as she is concerned, Efram's despicable act negated the legal agreement with Dante, and Lauren advises the scum ball never to come to the shelter again.

However, Efram does come back and threatens Lauren and all of the animals at HotRescues if he does not get the money due him. A nasty scene ensues before Efram leaves. The next morning his body is found in the animal compound. Since Lauren had spent the night in her office just in case Efram did return to hurt the animals, she is the prime suspect. She just might have an ally in Captain Matt Kingston, head of the SmART team (Small Animal Rescue Team of Los Angeles Animal Services). Matt's a very imposing figure, and quite a hunk; he is also younger than Lauren, but hey! Lauren needs all the help she can get to prove her innocence.

BEAGLEMANIA is the excellent start of a new animal series by the wonderful Linda O. Johnston, who writes the fantastic Pet Sitter series. This is an excellent story about how a shelter should be run -- if it only had the finances available to them that HotRescues does. The supporting cast of characters is fully developed, and all dialogue is intelligent and interesting. A story thread about a sick woman having to give up her beloved dog because she has no income and is looking for a cheaper place to live is beautifully told and Lauren is able to help with the problem. Dante and Kendra are prominently present, which made this reviewer happy. Lauren's budding relationship with Matt is also pleasing. Beware, Ms. Johnston is a firm believer in surprise endings.

What a terrific debut of a new interesting and believable cozy series that portrays the good and bad treatment of pets. Oh, by the way, the author points out that this no- kill facility only applies to animals.

Learn more about Beaglemania


Lauren Vancouver is the head of HotRescues, a no-kill animal shelter north of Los Angeles, but it's often human nature that puts her in the path of danger. Just like when she helps rescue four adorable beagle puppies that were dumped down a drainpipe at a nasty puppy mill.

One of the mill's employees has a history of dog abuse-and a bone to pick with Lauren. And when he's found dead at HotRescues after threatening her, Lauren will have to sniff out the real killer to keep herself out of a cage...


Chapter 1

I am not a killer.

At least not a killer of animals. I save their lives whenever humanly possible, especially pets. Their sole purpose on this earth is to love and be loved, like perpetual children.

People are something else.

Right now, I’d have gladly used my own hands—nice, strong ones for someone in her forties, since I do a lot of enclosure cleaning, lugging and opening of animal food containers, and other physical labor—to strangle Efram Kiley, the man who stood in front of me. His expression

was the picture of innocence even as he squared his thin yet sturdy body, as if attempting to hide the filled floor- to-ceiling cages in this torture chamber of a mega shed from my view.

Impossible, considering how many there were.

He couldn’t hide the smell, either. It was awful. The caged puppies and their parents obviously had no choice but to eliminate their wastes in the same place they lived and ate and suffered. The only surface beneath them was wire mesh that undoubtedly hurt their feet. No comfy rugs or mats for them.

And the sounds. Their cries. Their barks.

The outraged comments and shouts of the three Los Angeles Animal Cruelty Task Force members who’d leaped in like superheroes to reinforce regular animal control officers, all intent on saving these poor creatures.

Efram must have read the fury in my expression. Or maybe he’d learned enough about me, in the past few months, to know what I was thinking.

He quickly turned, and before I could say anything, he’d plucked an adorable beagle puppy from one of those appalling crates and gently placed her into my arms.

What could I do but nestle the squirmy little body close to my face, stench and all? "You poor little thing," I whispered against one of her long ears as I used my free hand to extract a small towel from the tote bag over my shoulder and wrap her in it.

"She’ll be all right now, Lauren," Efram assured me. As if he had anything to do with this rescue. Instead, the opposite was true. He was a party to the horror of this puppy mill. Even so, he said, "Isn’t this just a terrible place?" He shook his head slowly, as if he was as upset as I about the condition of this hell house and the innocent beings who lived here.

"Yeah," I agreed. "Terrible. So why do you work here?"

"I don’t."

"Then are you one of the owners?" I demanded.

"You know better than that, Lauren."

What I knew was that he was involved. I didn’t need to know exactly how, although I doubted he owned the place.

But I’d have bet he profited from it somehow.

I glared into Efram’s doleful brown eyes as I shifted the puppy in my arms. Towel or not, that smell was getting to me. But I wasn’t about to release her till I saw she would be taken care of.

She was just one of dozens of puppies here that the ACTF and animal control officers were handling with great care and angelic concern. And I would, eventually, have to hand her over to them.

Efram was in his twenties, with dark, messy hair that hung over his forehead. He worked out a lot and favored T- shirts with torn-off sleeves to show off his muscular biceps. His jeans were worn, his sneakers new.

He did a lot of work for me at HotRescues these days—the no-kill animal shelter I had helped to open a few years ago and now ran.

Oh, yeah. Efram was an animal care apprentice tending to creatures in need. He even had a choice about it: either learn how not to abuse pets and help care for them while they waited to be adopted, or forgo the substantial amount of money that was part of the legal settlement we’d entered into a while back.

Guess which he’d chosen.

Last year, Efram had threatened to sue HotRescues and me for rehoming his dog, Killer, without attempting to find the lost pup’s real owner. I, in turn, had been furious about the condition of that poor dog, now called Quincy, who had been brought to HotRescues as an apparent rescue from a public shelter, or so I’d chosen to believe. The settlement of our dispute had been fair. It resulted in Efram’s being paid to learn how to really care for animals. I’d even thought that, after all we’d taught him, he had become genuinely contrite for having abused Quincy. He certainly had seemed to throw himself energetically into his quasivolunteer work with HotRescues.

I wondered now if every bit of it had been an act.

"You’re Lauren Vancouver, aren’t you?" One of the uniformed animal control officers I’d glimpsed outside approached me. She was tall, her ginger hair pulled starkly back from her round face.

Efram looked relieved, as if this official, who could arrest him, was easier to deal with than me. Maybe she was.

I expected J. Gibbons—the ID on her nametag—to demand that I leave. Now. Civilians weren’t particularly welcome here, in the middle of an official investigation. I knew that.

But this wasn’t the first animal rescue that I’d crashed.

Nor would it be my last.

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