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

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It's a presidential election year, and the leading candidate is the former governor of New Jersey, Pat Sawyer. He's on the rubber chicken circuit, this time in Houston, and is relieved to pull away from his minions for a few moments. As he slips into his car, he is attacked by a wild creature, who tears at him, raking his face with its claws. Although it's only a domestic cat, it feels to Pat that he has been mauled by a cougar. Fortunately for him, the head of Animal Control for the Houston Health Department, Dr. Duncan MacDonnell, is attending a function with his wife and just happens to be nearby. Mac captures the animal and makes sure that Sawyer is taken care of.

Mac suspects that the animal is rabid and goes through all the procedures to test for rabidity. He recommends that Sawyer undergo the preventive measures for rabies, but his suggestion is ignored. He is released from the hospital without undergoing the procedure; and eventually, he is diagnosed with rabies (which is always fatal). The political machine goes into overdrive. With four weeks left until the election, an election which it looked like Sawyer would win, they have no candidate. Finally, the party machine under E. Randall Broussard selects a Hispanic candidate by the name of Quintana to fill in.

In the meantime, Mac is still trying to determine how the testing on the cat came back negative for rabies. He's also got other things going on in his department. For one, his boss is a headline junkie who has little interest in running the department, so he is often frustrated by the lack of support. Then he's got another case where a woman had dozens of cats in her home that weren't being cared for. When Animal Control steps in, they find her elderly parents locked in a room where they have been abused by their daughter.

Technically speaking, Armstrong is an excellent writer. My only criticism (admittedly picayune) is that he eliminate the prologue approach in his books. They don't add any clarity; I find them to be distracting. Armstrong built a strong and complex plot that kept me reading straight through. His subject matter is different (and welcomingly so) from that of most mystery books. It's refreshing to find a protagonist who is 60-years-old and not in the best of shape. It's also unique to see his wife, Jeannie, contributing so much to solving the crime without being irritatingly intrusive. Recommended.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, May 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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