Under the Dog Star by Sandra Parshall is the fourth book in the “Rachel Goddard” mystery series. Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press, September 2011

Something terrifying is happening in the mountain community of Mason County, Virginia. Pets are vanishing mysteriously and “Missing Dog” posters cover the waiting room walls at Dr. Rachel Goddard’s veterinary clinic. A pack of feral canines roams at night, attacking livestock in a desperate search for food.

Then prominent physician, Gordon Hall, is been found dead in his yard, his throat ripped open. Sheriff ’s Department investigator Tom Bridger believes the killing was premeditated murder using a trained attack dog as the weapon. He also suspects it is connect to the resurgence of an old problem: illegal dog fighting. But Dr. Hall’s son insists the feral pack killed his father, and he organizes a group of men to find and shoot the animals.

Rachel and her friend Holly Turner make enemies by trying to rescue the dogs and move them to the to the sanctuary Holly has created. Tom, in love with Rachel and worried about her safety, must divide his time between the escalating controversy, shutting down the dog-fighting operation (if he can locate it), and hunting for Gordon Hall’s killer. Could one of Hall’s five children hold the key to his murder?

Under the Dog Star pierces a brutal and complex web of greed and lie while painting a picture of the fate of animals abandoned by their owners, a situation often tantamount to murder.

Oh man, what a read! Wild dogs, murder and a dysfunctional family keeps Rachel and Tom busy and when they merged, danger surrounds them. This riveting and intense-moving tale took me on a ride that I did not want to get off. The brutal death of their father leads to several suspects as Tom seeks to find the killer among them; meanwhile Rachel is trying to save the wild pack of dogs and gets tangled in Tom’s investigation. Rachel is such a strong heroine who knows what her role is and will do what is right for everyone. This captivating novel is the best one thus far in this gripping series.

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