When she comes to after a tumble from the side of Dorr Mountain, in Maine’s Acadia National Park, Holly Winter can’t remember how she got there, or what she does for a living, or where she lives, or what her name is, but she’s not too addled to note the careful breeding and grooming of Rowdy and Kimi, the two Alaskan Malamutes she doesn’t yet recognize as hers. It’s the perfect setup for Conant’s latest canine-smitten mystery—and a promise of more than unusual human-centered tension, as Holly struggles to figure out not only who pushed professional crank Norman Axelrod to his death from a nearby path (and presumably tried less successfully to finish off Holly as well), but what had brought her to the park in the first place. Was she investigating financial skullduggery among her hostess Gabrielle Beamon’s friends in the Pine Tree Foundation for Conservation Philanthropy? Why was she collecting clippings about arsenic? And what did her doodle equating a tree and a diamond-shaped kite have to do with anything? With no one to trust (including her blithely obtuse father) except Kimi and Rowdy, Holly confides in them alone, setting her dog-mad author (Evil Breeding, 1999, etc.) her greatest challenge to date. But as Conant, who can’t maintain the discipline to stay inside Holly’s amnesiac viewpoint, starts cutting away to better-informed characters, the tension begins to leak out of Holly’s 13th case.
Readers will have to figure out whether the killer is one of the infatuated dog owners or the dog-kicking suspect Holly dubs an “insufferable bitch.”