Poisoned Pen, Feb 2010, $24.95
In Mason County, Virginia, veterinarian Rachel Goddard and her assistant Holly Turner come to the home of noted cartoonist Ben Hern to see his famous dog and cat. They overhear a nasty spat between newspaper publisher Cam Taylor whose paper is in financial trouble, and Hern , who also uses the name of artist Benicio Hernandez. Ben refuses to give Cam any money to save the paper.
Rachel and Holly leave Ben’s mansion, but sees Cam's car on the side of the road so they stop to offer assistance, but he is not there. They hear gunfire in the nearby woods and go to look; they find Cam’s corpse. Not long after that, Cam's house burns to the ground; after the building cools a dead woman whose body has bullets is found inside. The sheriff assumes the second corpse is Cam’s wife Meredith. Another person is killed and Ben’s mom vanishes. If that is not enough Rachel's lover deputy sheriff Tom Bridger’s former girlfriend Leslie Taylor, daughter of two of the dead, needs her ex allegedly for solace. Fearing for their loves and needing to know what happened, Rachel makes inquiries only to learn her late friend Cam apparently was trying to extort money from various sources like Ben.
The third Rachel Goddard veterinary whodunit (see Disturbing the Dead and Heat of the Moon) is a fabulous amateur sleuth with some police procedural elements as the heroine recognizes the potential danger she and Holly are in. Thus she investigates the homicides, but what she finds tear into her gut as she links the killings back to 1960s activism, 2009 blackmail and other secrets that have left corpses behind and threaten relationships with a destruction of trust.