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by Robert E. Armstrong
Writer's Showcase, December 2001
257 pages
ISBN: 0595204856

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It's July in an election year and Dr. Duncan MacDonell, Houston City Veterinarian is in his motor home in the parking lot of a posh country club in Houston. There's a $500 a plate fundraiser going on inside and he's waiting for his wife who is to meet a local candidate in the lobby and give him some information. Then they're going fishing.

The very handsome Republican front running candidate goes into the parking lot and makes his way to a dark corner where a car is waiting for him. Suddenly, Governor Sawyer's aide calls hysterically for a doctor in the lobby and Jeannie races out to the RV to get Mac. Mac gets to the Lincoln and finds the candidate with blood pouring from many facial lacerations. He stops the bleeding and looks in the car, where he sees a cat.

Mac takes charge of the orange tabby after the EMTs arrive and takes him back to the pound where he kills the cat and sends the head to be tested for rabies. He then phones the hospital and tells the doctor in charge to start anti-rabies serum shots, which the doctor doesn't do. He more or less forgets about the incident because the test comes back negative, and even after he has the cat's brain tested a second and third time, there is no indication of rabies. Mac remains suspicious because the cat acted like a rabid animal, but nothing is done.

Several weeks later, but still before the Republican Convention, the potential nominee becomes ill and dies. The CDC becomes interested, and since MacDonell is an expert, he goes to Atlanta, where he is deputized. He returns to Houston, convinced that something went wrong in the analysis, and tries to track the reservoir from which the virus came. The FBI stick their nose in also, and give him a hard time.

Duncan is given no respect by "real" doctors, since he's only a veterinarian. His own boss, who has no idea of what the city "dog catcher" really does, is one of the worst. Mac just wants to quit and go fishing. After all, he's a military retiree with several grandchildren, and he doesn't need all this tsouras. But he persists and traces both the source of the rabies and the killer. He also makes a strong case for gun ownership and NRA membership.

This is the second book by Dr. Armstrong, himself a veterinarian and military retiree. The book is even stronger than his first Canis. We still feel for the abused and unwanted animals, and he creates characters many of whom we would like to count as friends. The denouement is a surprise. My main quibble is that when his wife thinks he should get a dog to replace the one who dies of old age, she gives him the phone number of a breeding kennel. Shouldn't he first think of adopting one of the unwanted puppies who are put to death within a few days of their birth, or, if he must have a purebred dog, how about going to breed rescue?

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, May 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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