Play Dead – Leslie O’Kane

The “cozy” in this cozy mystery comes in with the main character’s calling of dog trainer. She has two dogs of her own, and is called in to help with a collie named Sage. And it’s there that my disbelief in the book begins. This woman’s knowledge of and training of the dogs as described in this book are … problematic. One of her dogs licks her face, upon which she comments that it “was something I’d trained her not to do”. Why? A few pages later the other dog, inside while her wonderful owner is outside, scratches at the glass door. So … licking is out, but scratching is okay.

What tipped me over the edge into complete mistrust of everything this dog trainer says is the fact that she routinely leaves her dogs – and her clients’ dogs – in her car while she runs around playing detective and running errands. And she advises her mother to do so as well. (Granted, her mother’s brilliant alternative to doing so was to take a dog into a mall, but this just means that stupidity runs strong in this family.)

You do not – not ever – not under any circumstances – leave a dog or a child in a car. Not for half an hour, not for five minutes. If I have to explain why this is a bad thing, google it. Better yet, let some charity make a penny off your ignorance and go to and do a search. I have no idea at what time of year this book takes place – and it doesn’t matter. Hot, cold – I don’t care what the temperature is: you do not. Leave. Your. Dog (or child). In a car. Alone. Ever. I will call the police on you. I have done so – and been physically threatened by the bastard who did it (two dogs in a theatre parking lot in a blizzard while the owners watched a four-hour movie). I don’t care if the dog is a malamute and adores the cold. I don’t care if the dog is actually a salamander and loves the heat. I will call the police on you. And I will hope for a hefty fine – or jail time. Jail time would be lovely.

She also drives about with three dogs in her truck bed.

The characters’ grasp of legalities is at least as questionable as their understanding of working with dogs. She assumes possession of Sage, the collie owned by the murdered client at the heart of the mystery, and somehow decides that it is within her purview to decide who will inherit him.

“As far as I know, no one else has a legitimate legal claim to him, so unless one surfaces, he’s yours.”
“I’m sorry, but since the last time I spoke with you, I’ve decided to give Sage to somebody else.”

In the meantime, while the mother is looking after Sage, someone tries to kill him and the awesome dog trainer’s two. The mother handles evidence, and then:

“What did the police say when you called them?” I asked.
“Oh, shoot!” She snapped her fingers. “I never did get around to doing that”…

The stupid runs strong here. After the attempt to kill the dog(s), Mama is still stupid enough to chuck the dogs out in the yard unsupervised, and is shocked – shocked, I tell you! – when Sage disappears. “‘What have I done?’ Mom said in a frightened whisper.” Yeah. Exactly.

The reason that the dead client’s dog is so important, they think, is because he witnessed the murder. The heroine tells people so. I’m not sure why she is so surprised when people treat her like she’s crazy – oh, wait. Stupid.

Her stellar investigative technique is coming up with the idea of calling all the people in her telephone book with the same last name, trying to find one particular one. The reason this is not a good idea is that the last name is … Smith. Yeah, you go try that. Get back to me when you’re done sometime next year.

Our dog trainer was advised to use security on her computer – like every other human being who has ever logged onto the internet. But she didn’t bother, reasoning – and I use that term loosely – that no one would want to look at files about dog owners. Well, maybe she didn’t keep those dog owners’ addresses, phone numbers, and credit card information on that computer.

The author’s grasp of timing is … questionable. A dog is giving her owner concern by not eating. The problem is not with the dog but with the kibble – a bag that was tainted a month ago, story time. Why would they never buy a new bag? Try a different food? Why would they keep uselessly filling the bowl with the same stuff? And how the hell big was the tainted bag if they filled her bowl even every other day? I also questioned the main character’s intelligence and the author’s storytelling sense when the former talked about putting out a broadcast about the missing dog (which by that point had morphed into “hers”), when the entire radio station had been shut down for some time, but really by that point I was just exhausted.

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