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by Robert F. Armstrong
iUniverse, December 2000
268 pages
ISBN: 0595147038

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Dr. Duncan MacDonell, is director of the Houston Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care, with a budget problem. He is expected to take care of the animals in the County with an insufficient number of poorly trained, semi-literate employees and a politically appointed boss, who, as head of the health department, is not really interested in the problems of animal control. When homeless men are found, apparently killed by a large canine, the police department calls on Dr. Mac for assistance.

With his 20 years experience as a military veterinarian, Duncan immediately goes to the local military dog handler to ask if there was a recently discharged animal handler in the vicinity. He finds a retired Staff Sergeant, a woman he had trained, available. She accepts his job offer, and comes on board as training officer with lots of good ideas on how to deal with the pitiful number of workers in the department.

This is one of the few mystery books written by a veterinarian about animals. I can think of two other authors who are also vets, Manda Scott's Night Mares is about a veterinary surgeon in Scotland whose animals keep dying, and Rory McCormac has a series about a veterinary locum in Ireland.

I'll admit, I have a bias against self published books. But there are always exceptions and this is one of them. CANIS may be somewhat naively written but that makes it even more affecting. No one can read the descriptions of the puppy mill, or the murder of thousands of helpless, homeless, unwanted animals, without tears coming to one's eyes. The fact that this is a well-constructed mystery with interesting characters, is secondary to the plight of the animals due to lack of consideration by the dominant species.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, April 2002

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