Rachel Alexander, PI, and Dash, her pit bull, are back again in a fourth outing of this winning series, which does a lot to counteract the negative image of the breed--the four-footed rather than the flat-footed variety. When Sophie Gordon, an epileptic teacher at a school for deaf children, asks Rachel to find Side by Side, the mysterious organization that cloned her faithful companion Blanche, Rachel finds more than she bargained for, not only more than one carbon copy of Sophie's pet, but a litter of trouble.
Sophie loves Bianca, the supposedly cloned animal Side by Side promised her, but Bianca doesn't seem to have inherited the one trait that makes Blanche so valuable and that others suffering from Sophie's disease require: the ability to warn their owner when a seizure's coming. Concerned that whoever gets the other clones won't be able to rely on them for assistance, she sets Rachel on the trail of the veterinarian who supposedly cloned her pet. Then Sophie dies in what turns out to be murder, and although Rachel no longer has a client, she's determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. Motivated as much by concern for what will happen to Blanche and Bianca now that Sophie's dead, she presses on with her investigation despite her personal misgivings about the implications of cloning and soon finds herself a murder target. This is a smart, carefully paced mystery that has a nice surprise tucked into the conclusion. Rachel's doggy-love seems more important than her feelings for her boyfriend, a dog psychologist, or any other human, but her emotions are entirely believable and likely shared by plenty of others who are owned by their pets. --Jane Adams
In this fifth outing for Greenwich Village PI Rachel Alexander and her pit bull, Dashiell, Benjamin continues the vivid prose, breakneck plotting and concern for contemporary issues that brought her the Shamus Award for 1996's This Dog for Hire. When Rachel agrees to meet Sophie Gordon in Washington Square Park, Dash has a ball playing with Sophie's young bullterrier, Bianca. Rachel's afternoon is far less simple, as Sophie's hard-to-swallow tale unfolds: she's an epileptic who lucked into a seizure-alert dogDone who can warn Sophie in time to take medication. Two years earlier, a woman approached Sophie at the park, saying she represented a charity that could clone Sophie's dog, BlancheDbut it had to be kept secret. Sophie would get one puppy and the others would help other epileptics. Bianca is that puppy, and she's the exact image of the aging Blanche, resting on Sophie's lap. But Bianca can't tell when Sophie is about to have a seizureDand Sophie can't find the agency to report that Blanche's lifesaving ability didn't pass to her clone. The day after their meeting, Sophie is murdered and Rachel and Dash are propelled into a dangerous search for her killer with help (or is it?) from Sophie's odd dog-walker. Rachel's New York savvy and big heart are appealing, and there's nothing coy or anthropomorphic about how Benjamin, a dog-trainer herself, portrays animals. There's almost too much action at the end, but overall this is a crackling good story even non-dog-lovers will enjoy. Agent, Brandt and Brandt. Mystery Guild alternate selection. (Nov.)
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