A Cambridge psychotherapist mistakenly rushes to the funeral of a dog-fancying stranger. The obsequies, as it turns out, are conducted by a woman priest with a canine acolyte named Ruffly, a little hearing dog trained to lend his deaf mistress his gigantic ears. When Ruffly speaks, who listens? Who but the ultimate real dog person, Holly Winter, and her Alaskan malamutes Rowdy and Kimi? In the latest of her acclaimed Dog Lover's mysteries, Susan Conant delivers a dryly humorous canine caper replete with Cambridge eccentrics and professors' brats. She also tells a story of human alienation and the salvation that lies in true partnership. When Holly Winter learns of the death of fellow dog-fancier Morris Lamb, she wonders how the proprietor of Winer & Lamb, a Harvard Square bookstore-cafe specializing in cookbooks, could have accidentally devoured poisonous plants he wouldn't have fed to a dog. Soon after the death, Doug Winer, Lamb's partner and heir to his estate, is showing Morris's dogs, spending Morris's money, and renting Morris's house to the Reverend Stephanie Benson, whose hearing dog suddenly exhibits behavior so bizarre that even Holly is baffled. Are Ruffly's weird episodes and the near-tragedy of a gas-leaking barbecue tied to Morris's death? Just how violently does Stephanie's cranky neighbor dislike dogs? What of Stephanie's son, Matthew, who is about to enter his freshman year at Harvard? Which does Matthew resent more, his mother's presence in Cambridge or her reliance on clever Ruffly? As a Fourth of July night lights up with fireworks, sparks ignite, and Holly finally realizes that when Ruffly speaks, what he means is murder.
Susan Conant, a three-time recipient of the Maxwell Award for Fiction Writing given by the Dog Writers Association of America, lives in Newton, Massachusetts, with her husband. She is the author of nineteen Dog Lover's Mysteries.