Who can resist a mystery with charismatic working dogs galore and even a cat rescue? With “A Borrowing of Bones,” author Paula Munier delivers a perfect paean to those who work to keep our wilderness safe (our forest rangers), our military veterans, and both dogs and cats who come into our lives and calm us down, give us unconditional love, and keep us warm on cold nights. Some, like the incredible dogs in this story, protect us.
Mercy Carr is a retired soldier as is her dog, Elvis, who was a bomb-sniffing dog in Afghanistan. When Elvis’ trainer, who was also Mercy’s fiancé, died, Mercy promised to care for the dog. Elvis was suffering from PTSD like many veterans. But when they are out walking in a remote area of Vermont near Mercy’s cabin, Elvis alerts to explosives and finds an abandoned baby.
That’s just the beginning of a mystery that brings Mercy in close contact with US Game Warden Troy Warner, another veteran, and his amazing search and rescue dog Susie Bear. Both dogs are amazing and amazingly real. Elvis is a Belgian Malinois, bred for his job and trained for years before being assigned to a soldier. Susie Bear was a rescue from the South (very realistic as shelters in the South send shelter dogs to New England, where there are fewer dogs needing homes) whom Troy trained to work with him in search and rescue. She is a Newfoundland mix, and like most Newfies, she’s huge and a great swimmer.
It’s the Fourth of July weekend, and almost the whole story takes place over five days. The cast of characters ranges from Mercy’s tight-lipped, professional and very successful attorney parents to a family living in the middle of nowhere involved in very questionable activities. There’s the over-reaching state detective who resents Mercy for solving problems at lightning speed and threatens Troy because of it. There is Mercy’s wonderful veterinarian grandmother, Patience. There are the people who rescue the tens of stray cats on the property where a murder takes place — Mercy and her grandmother help.
The mystery is gripping, the setting is beautiful, the dialogue and plot keep the pages turning, but the real draw are the four main characters. Twelve legs between them, the two dogs and their two humans are beautifully crafted characters. And they are easy to like. The spark between them isn’t fully developed in this first novel, but it would seem that things will heat up in future novels in this series.
(Another draw for animal lovers is that Munier doesn’t just talk the talk. Her own Newfie mix, Bear, was adopted sight unseen from Alabama through Double Dog Rescue. She also has a cranky beagle named Freddie and a rescue cat named Ursula. She’s certainly my kind of author!)
Mystery lovers will love the setup and resolution. Dog lovers will love reading about the lovely creatures in the story. Dog lovers who love mysteries will be in reading heaven. Don’t miss it.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher, Minotaur Books, for review purposes.