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The Dogfather: A Dog Lover's Mystery    by Susan Conant order for
by Susan Conant
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Holly Winter badly needs an influx of cash. What she earns - from her writing (for both Dog's Life Magazine and her cookbook of liver treats for dogs) and the rents from her tenants - is inadequate to keep two large, boisterous Alaskan malamutes fed, housed, healthy, and in the running for dog shows. What's more, her elderly and well-used (or abused) vehicle is in the process of expiring. Even so, Holly rejects without hesitation an invitation from suspected crime capo Enzio Guarini, who is looking for a trainer for his new elkhound puppy.

Unfortunately, Kimi and Rowdy, her malamutes, are ever ready to meet new people and check out a potential food source. They literally propel her into Guarini's orbit. Even so, Holly stubbornly resists payment and agrees to train little Frey as a favour. It might have been better to set a pay scale. Guarini, whatever his sinister background, treats Holly and her dogs with courtesy and generosity. However, his underlings do not carry out their employer's return gestures with subtlety. The unsuspecting Holly is dismayed at the furious reaction of the show judge threatened by Guarini's hoods (also serving as Holly's helpers in setting up for the show).

Their frequent visits to Holly's residence attract the unwelcome attention of a couple of FBI agents, whose behaviour is less gentlemanly than Guarini's. Equally exasperating, if less sinister, is Guarini's clueless chauffeur, who persists in asking to buy everyone else's pets. On the personal front, Holly is cautiously optimistic about rekindling a romance with her ex, who also provides her with the enchanting prospect of helping to train his new pup Sammy, one of a litter fathered by Rowdy. Aside from the worrisome problems of replacing her ailing Bronco and trying to avoid the menacing FBI agents, Holly's outlook seems rosy.

Conant delivers another rollicking episode in the life of Holly and her friends, both canine and human. The Dogfather is one of her best and most entertaining in the series. As always, Holly copes with a bewildering torrent of events with enviable composure. The ending of this adventure is wholly satisfying.

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