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Passion, Poison & Puppy Dogs (Danger Cove Mysteries) (Volume 9) Paperback – April 21, 2016
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About the Author
Sally J. Smith and Jean Steffens, are partners in crime—crime writing, that is. They live in Scottsdale, Arizona, awesome for eight months out of the year, an inferno the other four. They write bloody murder, flirty romance, and wicked humor all in one package. When their heads aren't together over a manuscript, you'll probably find them at a movie or play, a hockey game or the mall, or at one of the hundreds of places to find a great meal in the Valley of the Sun.
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Whenever I see a book written by committee, I think twice. Some teams have produced riveting novels, even series (I’m thinking of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child), but those partnerships are rare and I’ve never seen it work with three. The same goes for movies by committee. The results tend to produce common formulas and familiar tropes. Why? Because you now have three distinct styles and artistic tastes competing for attention. The need to compromise inevitably compromises the results.
Smith and Steffens always write as partners, and Ashby always writes with someone else (although she claims ownership of the Danger Cove series, of which this is book nine).
Art isn’t democracy, and I couldn’t avoid that feeling as I slogged through the pages of Puppy Dogs. I never disliked it, but I can’t help but feel I’d have put it aside were I not reviewing it. The book is solid, the writing competent, but sometimes solid doesn’t satisfy. You want special, and I felt nothing special about the book.
Lizzie Jones sits pets, offers rules to fit any occasion and hopes her pet sitting job will one day earn enough money to send her to college. Her ambition, veterinary science. In the meantime, she pitches in with her grandfather Jimmy John and his girlfriend Fran, who runs an animal shelter. Her best friend Caroline, Fran’s niece, won the lottery. She married championship weight lifter Brodie McDougal, lives in a mansion, drives a Mercedes and lives the high life. Unfortunately, McDougal wants to divorce Caroline because he’s got the hots for someone else. So Caroline wants to go on a week-long shopping spree and bankrupt her husband, and that shopping spree includes an all-expenses paid live-in, house and pet sitting gig for Lizzie, where she happens to bump into Tino, the subdivision security guard, whom she hated in high school, but, boy, did he grow up sexy.
Wait, you ask, where’s the murder? Oh, that’s right. After the authors introduce readers to the joys comfy, cozy Danger Cove (the series’ location), the authors remember to kill McDougal, a murder Lizzie discovers (after lusting over Tino) only because the dogs alert her to the fact something’s wrong. The book returns to Danger Cove life almost immediately, and the pace continues. One part mystery, three parts life in Danger Cover.
When the authors hit the formula right, the book has its moments. The Viking funeral is one of the funniest scenes I’ve read, but once McDougal’s ashes come to rest the author’s returned to the same plodding plotting. The thrills don’t pick up again until Chapter 23, when <spoiler alert!!!>.
I’d like to write this off as genre formula. Puppy Dogs is chick lit. Female readers tend to prefer more engagement with the characters and setting. Beware, however, Puppy Dogs is far more chick lit than mystery. The mystery serves more as a plot device to drive the characters. Unfortunately, the supporting characters such as the bank manager Abigail Harris, and the Dooley Brothers, town undertakers, deliver more entertainment than Lizzie and her entourage.
This is the only Danger Cove book I’ve read so I can’t say how well it matches up to others in the series. I suspect Danger Cove fans will still enjoy it. Readers of character-based mysteries will most likely be happy with it. Readers who love tight plotting, vivid characters and dialogue that drives the novel not stalls it should look for something else. Readers who want fast-paced action probably would click to another title as soon as they see the cute cover, and they’d be right.
Fans of Danger Cove may love this book, but if you are looking to make your entry into the series, I wouldn’t start with this one. <i>Puppy Dogs</i> proves that ancient adage—two collaborate; three muddy the waters.
5 = Delicious dialogue, crisp prose, clever characters & compelling plot
4 = Great read, won’t want to stop (Some reviewers rate this 5 stars)
3 = Worth buying (but…)
2 = I will tell you what audience will like this, but other readers might want to look elsewhere
1 = If I review a book this bad I felt seriously compelled to warn you
Phillip T. Stephens is the author of "Cigerets, Guns & Beer," "Raising Hell" and the new release "Seeing Jesus."
The Danger Cove series is a multi-author project from Gemma Halliday Publishing, and “Passion, Poison, & Puppy Dogs” is the first book from writing team Sally J. Smith and Jean Steffens. We are introduced to Lizzie Jones in the Danger Cover Pet Sitters Mystery and led on a marvelous adventure of pet-sitting, quirky families, animals of all kinds, and murder. Lizzie is a novice when it comes to investigating murder, but helping her friends, collaborating with her grandfather and a her new boyfriend Augustine ‘Tino' Morales, and the occasional ‘fur-friend’ defines her and makes for an exciting adventure. It’s a page-turning journey through a fun grandfather/granddaughter dynamic, growing love interest navigating family quirks, signature Smith & Steffens’ twists and turns and several laughs, and a very entertaining “Oh my!” conclusion. The characters are well developed even in a first book all due to Smith & Steffens’ talent as writers. And for animal lovers we have Vader, the cute pug, along with the ins and outs of the pet sitting business. We are also treated to an easy to follow vegetarian delight, The Thirsty Leprechaun Vinegar and Salt Potato Bites.
Move over Batman and Robin, Smith and Steffens are the coolest, sharpest and wittiest crime fighting duo to come along since you donned your tights! Ba-Bam!
This series installment written by the extremely gifted Smith and Steffens team reveals just the precise meld of animal adoration, juicy storytelling goodness and a well-plotted mystery to hook readers to the Danger Cove series and the pair’s well-stocked backlist.
Passion, Poison & Puppy Dogs introduces an intriguing new sleuth with the energizing Lizzie Jones and endearing sidekicks guaranteed to charm readers of all genres and leave them famished for more.
The duo’s captivating Pet Sitter installment does an outstanding job at further layering the foundation in the Danger Cove community. Passion, Poison & Puppy Dogs is littered with rollicking laughter, a dazzlingly romance with delectable banter, a cache of whimsical characters to showcase interminable and untapped opportunities while superbly illustrating just what makes a cozy a cozy.
I loved it. There was the mystery aspect to it seeing how a petsitting job can turn into a crime scene right away. Loved the dynamic with Lizzie and Jimmy Jones her grandfather. If there was ever a mystery show it would definitely starred these two. Also, can't forget how there is the reconnected romance of Tino and Lizzie. I ship those two hard.
Definitely a must read if you love mystery and animals like myself. I'm definitely looking forward to checking out more of the Danger Cove Mysteries soon.