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Murder Unleashed (Mags Rogers Series #2)

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Overview

The next scintillating novel in this acclaimed author’s delightful series featuring doggedly determined canine sleuths and their intrepid human companions.
 
Settling into ranch life with her wire-haired dachshund, Baxter, former Wall Street trader Mags Rogers doesn’t miss the world of investment banking—because its destructive tentacles have reached Reno, Nevada, where desperate families are squatting in foreclosed homes without water or ...
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Murder Unleashed (Mags Rogers Series #2)

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Overview

The next scintillating novel in this acclaimed author’s delightful series featuring doggedly determined canine sleuths and their intrepid human companions.
 
Settling into ranch life with her wire-haired dachshund, Baxter, former Wall Street trader Mags Rogers doesn’t miss the world of investment banking—because its destructive tentacles have reached Reno, Nevada, where desperate families are squatting in foreclosed homes without water or electricity. Mags and her gregarious great-aunt Jeep Reed want to help, but they’re up against corrupt officials, ruthless politicians—and a merciless murderer. After a former banker is brutally slain, Reno deputy—and Mags’s unofficial significant other—Pete Meadows finds evidence of blackmail, shady real estate ventures, and other cutthroat business practices, but the killer seems to hold all the cards. Luckily, Mags and Jeep still have a few tricks up their sleeves: Baxter; Jeep’s German Shepherd, King; and some other canine detectives are officially off the leash—and on the hunt.
 
“Captivating . . . [Rita Mae Brown] is adept at fashioning a clever and relevant plot and filling it with amiable people—and animals. Murder Unleashed is no exception.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch

“From murder to loveable canines, this book has it all.”—Suspense Magazine
 
“A great mystery [with] quirky and incredibly interesting characters.”—Examiner.com

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Muder Unleashed

"I love how she incorporates the animals and their particular way of thinking into the story and the line drawings that accompany the story are just delightful. Full of fast-moving action, a healthy dose of humor and well-written intrigue, Murder Unleashed is sure to satisfy both the mystery and animal lovers." --Ventura County Star

"Brown, who lives near Greenfield in Nelson County, is adept at fashioning a clever and relevant plot and filling it with amiable people — and animals. Murder Unleashed is no exception and adds to the author's large, entertaining body of work." --Richmond Times Dispatch

"This book will keep your attention riveted to see what happens next. From murder to loveable canines, this book has it all!" --Suspense Magazine
 
Praise for Rita Mae Brown’s A Nose for Justice, the first book in her thrilling new canine mystery series
 
“A hotbed of mystery and suspense . . . a humor-filled story that is loaded with quirky but lovable characters.”—Wichita Falls Times Record News
 
“Brown creates well-drawn characters (human and quadruped), fashions a nifty plot and mixes in enough local color and history to make the read as educational as it is entertaining.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch
 
“The human and canine cast is strong and the whodunit exciting.”—The Mystery Gazette
 
Praise for the Mrs. Murphy Mysteries by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown
 
“Charming . . . Ms. Brown writes with wise, disarming wit.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
“Nobody can put words in the mouths of animals better than Rita Mae Brown.”—Abilene Reporter-News
 
“[A] keen-eyed take on human misdeeds and animal shenanigans.”—Publishers Weekly

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly
This delightful second book in Brown’s Mags and Baxter Series set in Reno, Nev., finds transplanted stock trader Mags Rogers; her elderly great-aunt, Jeep Reed; and real estate broker Babs Gallagher trying to find a solution to the local foreclosure crisis. But when a body turns up in an abandoned house, Mags and her wire-haired dachshund, Baxter, must once again take it upon themselves to crack the case. Narrator Johanna Parker ably conveys Mags’s gracefulness and intelligence, Babs’s enthusiasm, and Jeep’s warmhearted crankiness. But where Parker really shines is in giving voice to the ladies’ crime-fighting dogs.Baxter speaks with a speedy squeak, while German shepherd King is deep, thoughtful, and almost regal. Parker is equally successful in providing voices for a kindly neighborhood coyote and her spiky, bickering brood. Honorable canines, good-hearted people, a serious discussion of current financial woes, and top-notch narration make for a surprisingly winning mix. A Ballantine Books hardcover and consumer digital download from Recorded Books. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews

The mortgage crisis meets murder in Reno, Nev.

When Mags Rogers' Wall Street career crashed and burned, she and her wire-haired dachshund Baxter moved in with her aunt Jeep Reed. Now that their friend, real-estate broker Babs Gallagher, has discovered a number of desperate families living in foreclosed homes with no heat or water, the friends mount a campaign to do something about it. That means taking on the banks and utility companies. Meanwhile, another friend, police officer Pete, and his partner Lonnie, find a murdered man in an abandoned house taken over by drug dealers. The whole mess is grist for the mill of politician Patrick Wentworth, who, oblivious to the plight of his constituents, has eyes only for sin. Jeep, who owns a big ranch, must also contend with the problems of her neighbor Howie, who gets shot and wounded, presumably by the miscreants who are rustling has cattle. Too bad Jeep and Howie can't consult more closely with Baxter, Jeep's German shepherd mix King and Howie's Zippy, who know a lot about rustlers and an unidentified man who's discovered the treasure long rumored to be buried on Howie's ranch. Mired in her merely human abilities, Jeep must call in a lot of favors before there's any sign of success.

Fans of Brown's long string of popular series featuring animal sleuths (A Nose for Justice, 2010, etc.) will note that her latest is less mystery than political polemic.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345511843
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/25/2012
  • Series: Mags Rogers Series , #2
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 234,494
  • Product dimensions: 4.32 (w) x 6.72 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Rita Mae Brown is the New York Times bestselling author of the Mrs. Murphy mystery series (which she writes with her tiger cat, Sneaky Pie), A Nose for Justice (the first book in her new canine mystery series), and the Sister Jane novels, as well as Rubyfruit Jungle, In Her Day, Six of One, The Sand Castle, and the memoirs Animal Magnetism and Rita Will. An Emmy-nominated screenwriter and a poet, Brown lives in Afton, Virginia, with cats, hounds, horses, and big red foxes.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Waiting for spring in Reno, Nevada, is like playing weather roulette. Just when you think the ball will drop on your lucky number, the winds pick up, the mercury plunges, and the odds turn against you one more time.

Tuesday, March 15, dawned promising, but that promise was soon dashed as low clouds rolled over the Peterson Mountains. Babs Gallagher--late forties, owner and chief broker of Benjamin Realty--drove past the Aces baseball park toward one of Reno's modest working-class neighborhoods. She noticed the darkening skies, flicked on the SUV's radio for a weather report, and instead heard an ad for a used-car dealer.

Like many other real estate agents, Babs had computer files chock-full of old, possibly expired listings. She had printed some out, and decided today to visit a neighborhood especially rife with them. As she was the listing agent, she wanted to see firsthand if there remained any hope of future sales. She could have sent out another agent from Benjamin Realty, but one of the reasons Babs had succeeded over the years was that she did her own homework.

Street after street of abandoned homes signaled the hard economic times assaulting her state. Nevada led the nation in foreclosures and unemployment, although sometimes it shared the dubious distinction of the highest unemployment statistics with other benighted states, such as Michigan.

While not a political partisan, Babs kept up with newsworthy events. Unlike the government in Washington, D.C., the state government of Nevada couldn't print more money. Nevada would need to be resourceful and make unpopular, unpleasant decisions if it was to crawl out of this economic morass.

She pulled over on Spring Street. Keeping her motor running to ward off the cold, she propped her folder onto the steering wheel and flipped it open to the first page: 267 Spring Street. There were a number of expired listings on this one block alone.

Buttoning her coat, and taking her folder of listings, she stepped outside into the chilly air. Walking up the sidewalk to the front door of 267, she noted the real estate office's lockbox was missing. Gingerly, Babs tried the doorknob. The door opened.

Stepping inside, she was surprised. Even with the busted door, the interior remained in good shape. As she went room to room, she noted on her sheet that the appliances were missing. Other than that, nothing was destroyed. She flicked a light switch. Nothing. Tried a faucet. The water had been cut off.

Making a few more notes, she left, walking down the street to another expired listing. She passed empty house after empty house. Some were boarded up. No "For Sale" signs in what was left of these front yards. Other sellers and real estate agents had given up.

As she opened the door to 232--lockbox also missing from the doorknob--Babs heard someone in the kitchen.

"Hello," Babs called out, voice friendly.

A young man, perhaps twenty, stuck his head around the doors then stepped into the living room. "Are you the owner? I haven't taken anything."

"No. I'm the real estate agent."

"Oh." Sandy-haired and slight, the young man wore only a sweater, inadequate against the cold.

"You have no heat?"

"No. There's no heat, electricity, or water. But it's better than sleeping on the street. Are you gonna throw me out?"

"No," she answered, unsure what to do. "How do you keep warm?"

He pointed to a small ceramic chimenea, an outdoor stove that he'd placed in the living-room fireplace. Focusing only on him, she hadn't noticed it before.

"At night I put wood in. Most everyone down here has something like this that they light up once the police patrols pass by. They don't usually come back after nine. So we start fires. It helps."

"Wouldn't it be easier to just put wood in the fireplace?"

"The ceramic holds the heat better." He smiled.

"Light?"

"An oil lantern. Smells a little."

"I see." She looked him in the eye. He looked like a decent enough guy. "How did you come to this?"

He shrugged. "I was working my way through UNR, lost my job and had to drop out. I couldn't get another job and I don't yet have my degree."

"I'm not sure it would help in these times." She held out her hand. "Babs Gallagher. I own Benjamin Realty."

"You're not throwing me out? Are you going to report me? The cops don't like squatters."

"Actually, I'd rather have someone inside the house who isn't destructive than for it to be empty. Here's my card."

"Thanks."

"How many people are living in the neighborhood?"

"I don't know. A lot of houses have somebody in them. Some have whole families." He paused. "If you go three blocks east it's full of crack dealers, meth dealers. I hope they don't move into our neighborhood. It's the end when they do."

"Yes." She hesitated. "Your name?"

"Donald Veigh."

She headed for the door. "I promise not to tell."

Once back in her SUV--a good vehicle in which to haul clients, especially if they were tall--she sat for a moment. Then she started the motor, turned the vehicle around, and drove to 141 Spring.

Again, the lockbox had been removed. Opening the door, Babs surprised a little girl, who was bundled up and riding a pink tricycle around the living room. The chill in this house was sharper than that in Donald Veigh's.

Smiling, Babs asked, "Where's your mommy?"

"Out? Who are you?"

"I'm Mrs. Gallagher. That's a nice tricycle."

"Uncle Bob bought it for me. I have lots of uncles. Do you?"

"I did." Babs's voice sounded soothing. "Are you here alone?"

"Mommy told me never to answer that."

"I see. Do you have any idea where Mommy is?"

"She's next door. She works there and I have to stay here while she works."

"I see." Babs walked into the kitchen. The child followed, nearly running her over.

The kitchen counter held bottled water neatly lined up, canned food, and a small camp stove. A skillet rested on the one burner.

A cooler was on the floor.

"Honey, when was the last time you ate?"

The little girl shrugged.

Babs then asked, "Are you hungry?"

The child, not fearfully but forcefully, replied, "Mommy told me never to take food from anyone."

"Your mommy told you some important things. I'll go next door and talk to her."

"She'll get mad."

With that warning in her ears, Babs left the little girl to her tricycle and walked across the denuded front lawn to the next house, which wasn't her listing. She noticed a few cars parked farther down the street.

She was going to knock on the door but then she thought better of it. Carefully, she opened the door. It was warmer in this house. Unlike Donald Veigh, whoever lived here wasn't worried about smoke. Perhaps they had made some sort of deal with the police.

Babs listened. The unmistakable sounds of sex filtered down the stairs.

Sighing, she let herself out. Maybe crack dealers hadn't moved in yet but other dysfunctions had.

She thought about the child in 141 and wondered if she should wait until her mother finished up and joined the little girl. She thought better of it. The child seemed fine, knew her mother was next door, and Babs had nothing to offer the little girl. Even if she'd bought food, the kid would not have eaten it. She seemed clear about her mother's orders.

Back in her car, she removed her coat and turned on the ignition. The heat was welcome.

If she reported these people, they'd be thrown out--and they'd go where? The shelters were jammed. They might be turned away, banished to the cold.

As numerous courses of action ran through her mind, she noticed several children coming home from school. She watched as they entered various abandoned homes. Opening a front door, a haggard mother hugged a boy with a heavy backpack.

How did these people survive? No water. No heat. No electricity. How did they bathe?

Donald Veigh had no furniture that she'd seen. Perhaps some of these people slept in beds, sat at kitchen tables.

How had it come to this? Who knew about this hidden segment of society, and more to the point, who cared?

For professional reasons, Babs worked hard to cultivate good relationships with bankers. She always tried to steer her clients toward the responsible banks but people, being who they are, jumped at low rates, low down payments without considering the fine print. Babs called those kinds of loans "Liar's Loans," because the loan officials making these offers invariably knew that sooner or later the mortgagee wouldn't be able to make their payment. Three missed payments and you're out.

What the banks had never foreseen was these same people, disenfranchised by these upside-down mortgages, simply walking into the bank and handing back the keys. There was no longer enough value in those homes to fight for ownership.

Still sitting in her SUV, Babs spotted the woman she assumed to be the tricycle child's mother in her rearview mirror. The woman left her place of employment and headed to 141. Of medium build, in her late twenties, she was raven-haired and attractive.

About to pull away from the curb, Babs stopped when a Silver State Resource Management truck rolled down the road. She put the car in gear and followed.

The truck stopped in front of a house with a blue door. The SSRM driver, Twinkie Bosun, got out.

She came up alongside and put down her passenger window.

"Twinkie."

"Babs. What are you doing out here?"

"Checking old listings."

"Hell, Babs, you can't even give these houses away."

Bunny Matthews, Twinkie's partner, got out and came over to Babs's window. "Hey, girl."

"Fellas, what are you doing here? I thought you'd be out in the county fixing things."

Twinkie took in a breath. "SSRM's let a lot of people go. We're all doing double-duty now."

"Yeah, we do repairs like always but today we're down here cutting off water," Bunny grumbled.

"Guys, there are squatters with children in these places."

"Yeah, I know. Sucks." Twinkie spat on the ground.

"What would happen if you left the water on in a few houses?"

"We'd get fired," Bunny answered.

"Well, what if you turned on the water in a few houses, came back tomorrow and turned it off, then did the same at a few other houses? People could at least wash up."

"Babs, once that meter's running, SSRM knows where it is and how much water is being used," Twinkie said.

"Sorry to put you on the spot." She meant it.

"We don't like doing this. We don't care about cutting service in Cracktown." Bunny referred to the bad part of town. "But a lot of people in this neighborhood are just down on their luck."

"Whole nation's down on its luck." Twinkie sighed.

"You got that right, brother," agreed Babs. "My business is nowhere. Thank God, I put a little away, and you know what? I don't know when the good times are coming back." Babs shook her head. "Know one thing, though."

"What's that?" Twinkie leaned his arms on her windowsill along with Bunny.

"If this gets fixed, it will be because we fix it. Don't wait on Washington."

"I wish I had a solution." Twinkie smiled at Babs.

"Well, I'm getting one little idea and it's that I want to help these people get back on their feet and I want to restore value to these homes. That might be a good start."

"Let me know when you're ready." Twinkie reached over and touched her hand. "I'll help."

"Thanks. I'll keep you posted."

As Babs drove off, her emotions roiled. She truly did want to do something about this problem. If she didn't, who would?

The person who would have the best ideas, who very well might come up with a good plan, was Jeep Reed.

You could always depend on Jeep.

CHAPTER TWO

Legs crossed under her, Jeep watched the flames jump in Howie Norris's river-stone fireplace.

King, a German shepherd mix, stretched out at Jeep's feet. Zippy, a dark chestnut-colored Australian kelpie, sat next to Howie in his deep club chair.

Outside, a light snow fell. The sun had set a half hour ago, the dark sky deepening with the passing minutes.

Howie's house had been built about the same time as Jeep's, back in the early 1880s. Over the years both houses had expanded, a room here, a porch there, creating a wonderful lived-in feeling. Sometimes Jeep felt she heard those early voices whispering, but she kept the prospect of ghosts to herself.

Knowing each other since the fifties, Jeep and Howie had remained close. With Ronnie, Howie's wife, having passed away two years ago, Jeep made a point of weekly visits to see how he was, to check the place out, and to make sure all was well. If a big job needed doing she'd send her ranch crew over to do it, despite Howie's protests.

They talked on and on, laughing as only two people who adore each other can. What richness there was in a friendship nudging six decades. Jeep's memories of Howie harkened back to when she was trying to make a go of it after World War II. He was young and finding his way also.

"Is he buying any?" Howie, a cattleman like Jeep, asked about her adopted son's trip to Sheridan, Wyoming, to look at the red Angus.

"He is. Enrique's buying twenty-five head to start. You know me, I love my Herefords. I know the horns are a problem. People always tell me I need Polled Herefords but I love the true old Hereford, have since I was a kid. They are the sweetest cattle, I love being around them. 'Course you have Baldies--good good cattle." She complimented his choice.

Baldies were Angus crossed with Polled Herefords. They were popular across the United States, bringing good prices at auction.

Jeep didn't like black cattle in hot climates. She was out of step with most of the country on this. Even in the American South people thought black cattle were better. She didn't understand why.

The heat kept the meat-to-bone ratio down, plus it was harder to keep fat on them. It's fat that makes meat taste delicious and makes all those uptight dietitians self-righteous--they're all for low fat.

"He's a good hand with cattle, your boy."

"Dot and I sent him to college thinking he might go into medicine or law. He was bright enough. He majored in agriculture and he's doing what he loves. I don't think Enrique could sit behind a desk any more than I could. You know, Howie, if more people worked at what they loved we'd have far fewer problems."

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 14 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 15, 2011

    Goodbye

    Another longwinded and boring political rant; the author needs go back to writing entertaining fiction and get off her soapbox.
    I've read her books for years and over the last several have been progressively disappointed and bored.
    This will be the last book of hers I will waste my money on.
    I didn't even finish it.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 7, 2012

    Couldn't even finish it..

    I have read and loved Rita Mae Brown's books for years, but lately her writing is subpar. I really enjoyed the first book in the series, but was so disappointed to find that this book is full of the same boring conversations about the government/economy etc that has ruined the Mrs. Murphy series.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A creative and enjoyable tale

    The financial meltdown nuked Mags Rogers' Wall Street career. Humiliatingly, Mags and Baxter the dachshund move onto the ranch of her octogenarian Great Aunt Jeep Reed and King her Shepherd mutt in Reno.

    Nevada realtor Babs Gallagher tells her friends Mags and Jeep that several families she knows of live in squalid conditions in foreclosed homes; they have no utilities and if they did could not pay the bills. The three females are appalled that in this day and age in America people survive without running water. Led by Jeep they decide to launch a campaign to help the squatters.

    Running for Congress on a tough on personal responsibility rather than government dole, Patrick Wentworth uses the unfortunates as a wedge issue. He plays up a homicide, another death and Jeep's neighbor who was wounded as proof the sinful non taxpayers are destroying the community. However the politico failed to count on the dog-gone sleuths.

    The latest Jeep-King canine amateur sleuth tale(see A Nose for Justice) is more a moral condemnation of big business and the political puppets who dance as marionettes to the string pullers than a mystery; though the whodunit serves somewhat as an enhancer into the plight of homeless families. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Jeep starts her campaign for sustenance with dignity and never slows down as the women and the dogs investigate crimes that break the law and crimes against humanity (and pets).

    Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 30, 2012

    Good story - a little too technical/political

    If you have read the first one of this series, you will find a lot of repetition about water rights & conservation. In addition, there is a lot of (IMO unnecessary) support about why the economy when down & the role that banks & the government played in it.

    I gave it 4 stars, because I did enjoy the more personal aspects of the story lines, and the evolution of the characters.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2011

    Thoroughly enjoyed

    Social issues are not new for Brown but this was exceptional in dealing with the foreclosure crisis, explaining it and throwing in a good mystery besides. Especially appreciated her end page that stated the date as when all the facts were true - helped the reader to know there was some basis in fact. As in so many of her books, the animals were a large part of the story and TOLD us so -- love this new series. Hope it continues.

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  • Posted October 31, 2011

    Intersting storyline, good reading

    Book two in this series has an interesting storyline. I enjoyed the book, and it gave me something to think about. I like this new group of characters, and I look forward to more in this series.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 23, 2011

    Not up to her usual standard

    This series seems flat to me. This one is similar to the first two that I read, with what seems to me to be a superficial development of characters and plot. I'm very disappointed, because I truly love ALL of her other fiction. I was bored.

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  • Posted October 6, 2011

    Highly recommended -- another great read from Rita Mae Brown.

    This story is full of detailed descriptions of the areas involved so that you can imagine yourself on the roads, in the homes, etc. As always the twist & turns keep you excited and worried for the characters. The many conversations of Pewter, Mrs. Murphy, Tucker and all their companions only add to the suspense.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted December 30, 2011

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