Trick or Deadly Treat
A Freshly Baked Mystery
By Livia J. Washburn
$14.00, trade paperback
290 pages, with recipes
It might not be deep in the heart of Texas, but Weatherford, Texas is home sweet home to retired school teachers Phyllis Newsom, Sam Fletcher, Carolyn Wilbarger and Eve Turner. Sam is determined to adopt a dog, to have that special bond he had with a pet who had passed away. Close friend, Phyllis, agreed to allow Sam to bring a dog into her home.
Call it fate, but as they arrive a young, injured Dalmatian is brought in. Sam is immediately drawn to him. But before Sam and Phyllis bring him home, they visit Baxter Veterinary Clinic. Hank Baxter seems genuinely concerned about Sam’s dog, Buck. He treats his leg and sends him home with meds. In no time at all, Buck is a part of the unique family and he has no trouble adjusting to the old house.
Having the thrill of competition is what Carolyn lives for. Shortly after Carolyn informs Phyllis about “The Taste of Texas” baking competition, the two review their recipes so they can enter the contest. When Phyllis and Sam return to Baxter’s Clinic, they learn about a Halloween Party for the doctor’s patients and their families. That gets Phyllis thinking about baking special treats for the dogs.
The Halloween party is a success and the dogs love the treats that Phyllis and Carolyn made for them. The only thing that brings the party to a dead halt is the sudden realization of Baxter’s wife’s murder. They learn that a blow to the head ended her career as a surgeon and her life. Guess who the prime suspect is? Yep, the vet. But he has a devoted staff standing beside him: Holly and Tommy. Joining them with concern for Baxter’s long term freedom is Phyllis and Sam.
Not willing to stand by and allow a man they believe to be innocent be labeled a killer, Sam personally begins an investigation, starting with the man he witnesses arguing with Baxter. Though it’s not quickly related why Baxter had a falling out with this individual, it’s clear to see when Sam checks out his “professional” operation. Knowing the level of success Phyllis has had with previous cases, even though she’s an amateur sleuth, Baxter’s lawyer requests her to join Sam as a consultant. Things quickly heat up.
This is the first book I’ve read of Washbourn’s and I’d have to say it felt like “home.” I love the fact that the characters were retired and not young business owners worried about dating and having no time for dinner. These characters step out of the box and aren’t afraid to sneak around or pretend they are someone else to get necessary answers. I love the dog, too. He’s not your pint size, carry in a bag and dress him up. (although I love these dudes and dudette’s, too). He’s a man’s dog and he isn’t perfect.
In terms of the unfolding of the mystery, yes it kept me interested. It wasn’t a high level mystery, but it was entertaining. The characters drew me in because they were well drawn out. The short list of suspects was believable and had me thinking about the ethics of dog breeding. Also, how an argument or a shaky relationship is considered early evidence in a possible murder case. The truth does have a way of rising up above finger pointing and suspicion. The only thing that really bothered me was the use of “I reckon” so much. Otherwise, I love the characters and will put this author on my list of “gotta read” her new books.
Four homemade dog treats out of five
October 21, 2014