Farberville's bookstore-owner/occasional sleuth Claire Malloy (A Diet to Die For, etc.) has consented to care for Emily Parchester's African violets and basset hounds, Nick and Nora, while Emily takes a trip. Days later, the hounds have disappeared, along with the various pets of neighbors on the block, and Claire is in the middle of a plot to recover them from the filthy quarters of nasty Newton Churls, notorious local animal-dealer. Not so easy, especially after Churls is killed by his pit bulls--not accidentally; Claire's warned off by the local law; a couple of Churls's brutish redneck pals are prowling the neighborhood, and Claire's teenaged daughter, Caron, and friend Inez undertake some heroics of their own. Another of the author's ditsy mixes--a worthy issue; a few eccentrics; lots of ill-advised forays into danger; and a blithe heroine whose ironic reflections often produce a chuckle. Of special interest to dedicated animal-lovers.