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Dogs Don’t Lie: A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir Mystery Review

Dogs Don’t Lie: A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir Mystery, by Clea Simon Poisoned Pen Press, April 2011, ISBN: 9781590588604 (hardcover), ISBN: 9781590588628 (trade paperback)

Pru Marlowe was nearly through her training as an animal behaviorist in New York City, when she fell ill and discovered that suddenly she could hear what animals were saying to her. She panicked and fled, with her thirteen-year-old tabby cat, Wallis, back to the safety and serenity of her small-town home in the Berkshires—Beauville, Massachusetts.
We meet Pru when she’s been home for a while, and has a few dog-walking and dog-training clients, as well as serving as the behaviorist for the local shelter. One fine morning, she arrives at the home of one of her training clients to find that he’s dead, with his throat ripped out, and his pit bull, who should have been in her crate until Pru arrived, is loose. To the unknowing eye, it looks as if the pit bull, Lily, killed her master—and that’s the conclusion the police leap to.
But Pru knows there are some major problems with this theory. On training days, Charles didn’t take Lily out of her crate until Pru arrived. Even if he were to do so for some reason, he never took Lily out of her crate without having her leash in hand, and her leash is not in evidence. Oh, and then there’s the little detail that although she and Charles were working on trust issues with Lily, she is not even remotely aggressive. Charles bought her for $100 from a guy in a bar, and Pru knows from Lily that she used to belong to a dogfighter who abused her and then sold her because she wouldn’t fight even well enough to be a bait dog. Of course, she can’t share that last bit with the police.
So Pru has a problem. She knows Lily is innocent and is determined to save her, but she doesn’t want the police to then look at the next-most-convenient suspect, herself. Pru starts investigating, with some help from her demanding, bossy, sarcastic cat, Wallis. Along the way, she learns about Charles’s business dealings (he was a software developer, working on an instantaneous voice-translation program), and his handsome, charming business partner, Mack, who was raising money for the venture. She learns about his family—his aging mother, in the early stages of dementia and clinging to her independence, and his fiancée Delia. Delia seems completely warm and sincere when she’s talking about Charles’s excellent qualities, and yet strangely unlike a grieving lover. Also, her former boyfriend, Chris, seems to be back in her life, immediately after Charles’s death.
Lily’s too traumatized by what happened to tell her much, but she provides a few vital clues. Pru picks up more from the Animal Control officer’s pet ferret, Frank, and one of her dog-walking clients, a bichon whose owner calls him Bitsy and who calls himself Growler, provides an important clue to Charles’s character. A Persian name Floyd, a young orange kitten almost as traumatized as Lily, and even assorted humans contribute their bits of information.
Pru is an interesting character, still getting used to her unusual ability, a bit misanthropic, and not totally reconciled to small town life anymore, but still working to blend everything into a workable life. The animals are not overly idealized and they’re all individuals, as much as the humans in the story. This is the first of a projected series, and I’ll be looking forward to the next one.
Recommended. Note: I received a free electronic galley from the publisher via NetGalley
Reviewer Bio:

Lis and AddyLis is a librarian with an odd sense of humor, who finds excitement in helping people find the information they need, and in the varied corners of library work--reference, cataloging, circulation, resource development, reader's advisory. She reads voraciously and enjoys a wide variety of material--including, of course, fiction and non-fiction about dogs and cats. Addy, her Chinese Crested, is always happy to keep her company while reading, and occasionally tries to help write the reviews.

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