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Doggone Deadly

Doggone Deadly

by Deborah Blake
Doggone Deadly

Doggone Deadly

by Deborah Blake

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback)

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Kari Stuart is roped into helping out at a dog show—but soon finds she’s bitten off more than she can chew when her best friend is framed for murder in this new Catskills Pet Rescue Mystery.

When the woman running the big regional dog show calls out sick, dog groomer Suz Holden is asked to take over. But it’s too much for her to handle by herself— considering the president of the kennel club, Olivia Weiner, criticizes her at every turn—so she calls in her best friend, Kari Stuart, for help.
A long, stressful day goes from bad to worse when a local breeder is found dead, and the murder weapon seems to incriminate Suz.

While Kari knows her friend isn’t guilty, the police aren’t so sure, especially after a second murder points to Suz again. But trying to run a dog show and investigate a murder at the same time is like herding cats, and Kari will have to rely on the rest of the Serenity Sanctuary staff to keep things running smoothly while she—and her beloved and clever kitten, Queenie—sniff out the truth.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593201527
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/16/2021
Series: A Catskills Pet Rescue Mystery , #2
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 92,900
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Deborah Blake is the author of multiple romance series, including the Baba Yaga series, as well as over a dozen nonfiction titles. When not writing, Deborah runs The Artisans' Guild, a cooperative shop she founded with a friend in 1999, and also works as a jewelry maker, tarot reader, and energy healer. She lives in a 130-year-old farmhouse in rural upstate New York with numerous cats who supervise all her activities, both magical and mundane.

Read an Excerpt


"Quick, hide me!" Suz said as she ran into the large white tent.

Kari Stuart looked up from where she was positioning a freestanding wall featuring pictures of animals currently up for adoption at the Serenity Sanctuary, almost dropping the display on her foot. Kari wasn't sure what amazed her more-that her best friend, who was six feet tall with spiky lavender hair, thought she could actually hide behind five-foot-six brown-haired Kari, or that there was something Suz would feel the need to hide from at all. They'd been friends since grade school, and as far as Kari knew, Suz wasn't afraid of anything.

"Is there a demon chasing you?" Kari asked, shifting one side of the hinged board so the whole thing was more stable. They were on the parklike grounds of the two-year state college in Perryville, not far from their hometown of Lakeview, for the annual Tri-County Kennel Club Show. Suz was a member of the local kennel club, one of three clubs putting on the event, and she'd been roped into taking on the coordinator role when someone else backed out at the last minute. In turn, she'd persuaded (okay, bribed) Kari into helping by giving her the chance to have a fundraising and awareness-raising booth for the shelter.

"Worse," Suz said as she ducked behind one of the two long folding tables covered with white cloths. "You haven't seen me. You don't know where I am." A pile of adoption application forms on top of the table quivered, threatening to topple over into the volunteer sign-up sheet next to them.

The setup was fairly simple, in part because it had been thrown together quickly, and in part because AKC rules said that no unregistered dogs could be allowed onto the show grounds. That meant Kari had only been able to bring photos of the dogs they currently had up for adoption, along with two metal cages-now perched atop the table not lined with application and information sheets-holding four adorable kittens each.

A third cage held a half-grown black kitten named Queenie, who was definitely not up for adoption, since she belonged to Kari. Or vice versa. It was often hard to tell. Queenie had insisted on coming along, so she was currently lounging on a cat bed, supervising Kari as she arranged the rest of the displays.

"Miss Stuart," a piercing voice said as a statuesque and well-preserved woman in her mid-sixties strode into the tent as if she owned it. "I am looking for Suzanne. Have you seen her?"

"Apparently not," Kari said, suddenly understanding why her friend was hiding behind a table. "Is there anything I can help you with, Mrs. Weiner?"

Olivia Weiner was well-known in Lakeview, and probably admired and dreaded in about equal measure. Not only was she the president of the garden club, the literary book club, and the kennel club, but her husband, Jack Weiner, had a used-car "empire" that stretched over a half a dozen counties.

Olivia, with her professionally cut and dyed blond hair, piercing hazel eyes, and perfect figure, maintained with rigorous dieting and the religious use of a personal trainer, appeared in all of his ads along with her purebred dogs. She was wearing a floral skirt and jacket suit that had designer written all over it, a sharp contrast to Kari's jeans and tee shirt. No doubt Olivia achieved many good things with all the committees she worked on, but Kari had always found her a little intimidating.

"For goodness' sake," Olivia said, looking around the tent with disapproval radiating from her rigid posture. "I can't imagine why the show committee agreed to allow this. As you may know, I voted against it." She frowned at the donation jar on the end of one table and at the pictures of three grinning pit bulls, an elderly beagle with lopsided ears, and some sort of poodle-schnauzer-wandering-hound mix. "Why, most of those dogs aren't even purebred. Plus that jar is just undignified."

"And what on earth are those things?" She pointed at the cages as if offended by the existence of their non-canine occupants. An orange ball of fur opened its tiny mouth and let out a yawn, clearly unimpressed with this loud human.

Kari choked back a laugh and said with a straight face, "Those are kittens. They're kind of like dogs, only smaller. Most people find them quite adorable."

Olivia snorted. "At an AKC dog show? It hardly seems suitable." She turned around and, behind her back, Queenie hissed. Kari made a shushing motion. The kitten ignored her, as usual.

The older woman shook her head and sighed. "Well, it's done now. What isn't done, unfortunately, are half the tasks your friend Suzanne was supposed to have taken care of before we open the gates in thirty minutes." Olivia waved a clipboard through the air, as if to prove her point. "The show judges will be arriving any minute now, and there are no water bottles in their tent. What kind of an impression is that going to make, I ask you? We have been hosting this show for over thirty years, and we are renowned for our hospitality."

"I'm sure Suz is doing her best, Mrs. Weiner," Kari said. "After all, she just got handed all this extra responsibility two days ago."

"Well, I don't have time to look for her," Olivia said, straightening her jacket. "I am being interviewed by the local paper, then recording a video for one of my husband's commercials, and I need to walk around and make sure everything looks just right. If you see her, tell her that all the remaining items on this checklist need to be completed immediately." She shoved the clipboard in Kari's direction. "And remind her that I will be at her tent to get Snowball's final grooming in exactly one hour." She took one last look at her expensive watch and stalked out.

As soon as she was gone, Suz straightened up from behind the tablecloth, rubbing grass stains off the knees of her jeans and tugging down the bottom of her red Lakeview Kennel Club tee shirt. "Sorry," she said with a wry smile. "But I was afraid that if I had to talk to Olivia one more time this morning, I was going to end up killing the woman. She has been driving me around the bend."

A chuckle from the entrance to the tent made them both jump guiltily. A tiny silver-haired woman with faded blue eyes and wearing a fuchsia track suit poked her head inside. "I don't blame you," she said. "I'm from the Saratoga Kennel Club group, and we had a few problems with her last year."

"Miriam Rosebaum, right?" Suz said, coming around the table to shake hands with the spry octogenarian. She towered over the elderly woman. "I'm Suz Holden, and this is my friend Kari Stuart."

Miriam came farther into the tent and gazed around. "Oh! Kari Stuart. You're the woman who won the lottery and bought that run-down shelter."

"I am," Kari said. "Guilty as charged."

Earlier that year, she'd stopped at the convenience store on her way home from her job as a waitress at the local diner to pick up cat litter and bought a lottery ticket on a whim. That ticket had turned out to be worth about three million dollars after taxes. Because she'd made so many bad decisions earlier in her life, Kari had been cautiously pondering the best way to spend her unexpected windfall.

Then she'd found a small black stray kitten and discovered that none of the shelters in the area had any room for the little waif. In fact, they were all completely full, except a bankrupt animal sanctuary that was on the verge of shutting down. Kari had bought it from its beleaguered and overwhelmed former owner, only to get caught up in the murder of the then-dog warden, who had his own plans for the property. By the time it was all resolved, Kari had a rebuilt and reopened sanctuary . . . and a black kitten named Queenie, who seemed to have an uncanny nose for clues and a habit of sticking that nose where it didn't belong. Thankfully, that was all behind them now.

"You should visit the Serenity Sanctuary while you're in town," Suz said. "You won't believe what Kari has done with it."

Kari rolled her eyes. "She's just saying that to butter me up because I agreed to help her with the show at the last minute. Apparently the woman who is usually in charge got sick."

Miriam let out a cackle. "Sick of Olivia Weiner's micromanaging and constant criticism, more likely," she said. She gave Suz a pitying look. "Let me guess-you're new to the kennel club circuit."

"Just joined the year before last," Suz admitted with a wry smile. "I really love it, even though my dogs mostly aren't show quality. I've got a pug who thinks he's a Rottweiler, but other than that I have two mixed breeds of indeterminate origin, one of whom I've gotten registered under the AKC Canine Partners program so he can take part in the agility competition."

"What about you?" Miriam asked Kari. "Are you a member of the kennel club?"

Kari shook her head. "I'm just here to help out Suz and try to raise some awareness about the pets that need good homes." She gestured at the tables. "As you can see, I'm still setting up, but then I have some volunteers coming to man the booth so I can run around with Suz. I can't believe how much work goes into putting on a three-day show like this."

"We get people attending from all over the country," Suz said proudly. "There are over six hundred dogs competing each day. It's kind of amazing."

"Well, the show itself has been held for over fifty years," Miriam said. "Although it hasn't always been the same three kennel clubs taking part. I've been coming with the Saratoga group for longer than I care to count." She patted her silver hair. "I used to show bichon frises, but I switched to dachshunds a few years ago. I had a bad experience and decided to go with a simpler breed."

"Olivia has a bichon frise this year," Suz said. "She's convinced he is championship quality, and I have to admit, he's won every show they've taken part in so far. She had a bulldog before that, but apparently her husband, the Used-Car King, complained that the dog was too ugly to use in his commercials and made her get something cuter."

A shadow flashed over Miriam's eyes, so fast that Kari almost missed it. "Bichons are adorable," the older woman admitted. "All that soft white fur and those black button eyes. Hypoallergenic, too, so they're a good choice for people who can't tolerate most other dogs. But they have their issues, like most purebreds." She sighed, and Queenie suddenly appeared and rubbed up against Miriam's ankles. The kitten had a bad habit of opening the cage when no one was looking-Kari still hadn't figured out how she did it.

"What a sweetie," Miriam said. "Is she yours?" She leaned down and picked up the kitten, who immediately settled into her arms and started purring.

"She is," Kari said. "She insisted on coming with me today, and I've found it is easier to go along than to argue, most of the time."

"Just like Olivia Weiner," Suz said through only slightly gritted teeth. She glanced at her watch and picked up the clipboard. "I'd better go take care of the rest of this stuff before she comes back looking for me again." She explained to Miriam, "Her husband's auto business is one of the major sponsors of the event, and I guess that makes her think the show belongs to her."

Miriam tittered, handing the black kitten back to Kari and then patting Suz on the arm. "Oh, no, dear, that's just the way she is. Has been for as long as I've known her. She has to be the best and have the best. It must have been difficult for her all these years to only end up with dogs that consistently came in second and third."

"Did that have something to do with the problems you had with her last year?" Kari asked. She found the dynamics around the dog show fascinating, and surprisingly intense. Some people who took part probably did it for fun, but a lot of them seemed to take the competitions very seriously indeed. "Was she a sore loser?"

"You could say that," Miriam said, cocking her head to the side so that she resembled a tiny fuchsia bird.

Suz raised a lavender-tinted eyebrow. "Really? What happened?"

"Olivia actually accused the woman whose dog beat out her bulldog for Best in Show of sleeping with one of the judges to get his vote," Miriam said.

Kari gasped, putting a hand over her mouth. "You're kidding! And was it true?"

Miriam shrugged, but her blue eyes twinkled. "I'm pretty sure Teri slept with the judge," she said with a merry laugh. "He was quite the looker. But I doubt it had anything to do with getting his vote. There was a panel of three judges, and Teri certainly didn't sleep with them all. She just had a better dog. Still, Olivia raised quite the stink, in her own snooty, dignified way. I hope it doesn't happen again this year."

"I doubt it will," Suz said. "Like I said, that new dog of hers is pretty impressive. That's one of the reasons she's dumped all this extra work on me. She's completely focused on winning with Snowball."

"What's his official name?" Miriam asked. "Maybe I'm familiar with his sire and the kennel he comes from."

"Honestly, I don't remember. Something French, I think," Suz said. "She just calls him Snowball. The name is in the program somewhere, but if I don't get that water to the judges' tent, my name is going to be mud. I really should get going."

Just then Sara, one of the volunteers from the shelter, came into the tent. An older woman with a bold turquoise stripe in her gray hair, she was a former ninth-grade English teacher who had stuck with the sanctuary even when it was on its last legs. She was one of Kari's staunchest supporters and had become a friend over the last few months.

"Hi, Kari," Sara said. "I'm here to mind the shop, so to speak." She looked around at the table on the right with its neatly piled paperwork and large jar for donations, the table on the left with its cages full of kittens, currently wrestling with each other in typical kitten fashion, and the display wall set up in between. "This looks great! People are going to love it."

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