A new series with a new hero, by the creator of gunsmith-sleuth Keith Calder (Pursuit of Arms, etc.). He's ex-army Captain John Cunningham, slowly recovering from an intestinal ailment contracted during service in the Falklands War. Now, in partnership with veterinarian-handler Isobel Kitts, and helped by smart, self-effacing kennel-maid Beth Cattrell, Cunningham has invested his meager savings and energies in Three Oaks Farm, starting kennels for breeding and training as gun dogs his beloved spaniels. The farm is in the middle of dog-breeding country--neighbor Joe Little raises Labradors; Laura Daiches and Olive Cory, who live next to each other, also raise spaniels, but strictly for show, and never fail to express contempt for Cunningham's working dogs. The ladies tend to quarrel with everyone but each other, so the shock is not as great as it might be when Mrs. Daiches is found both shot and strangled. The police in this gun-happy community have their work cut out for them. Their search for the murder weapon is relentlessly detailed, as are Cunningham's reasons for thinking a piece of his shooting equipment may be involved. In the end, it's sensible Beth who figures out motive, culprit, and a way to bring justice to bear. With its sprightly Scottish flavor and slightly offbeat style, the story begins promisingly but flounders midway--the author's need to tell all he knows on his favorite subjects nearly buries character and plot. Strictly for passionate fanciers of dogs, guns, or both.