Attention to readers willing to blast through reams of information on southern manners and dogs’ lives for trace amounts of mystery: Jo Beth Sidden, bloodhound trainer, amateur sleuth, and steel magnolia, is back in action after a four-year hiatus (Ten Little Bloodhounds, 1999, etc.).
By page 38, murder’s been done, and we know whodunit and why. Now on to more substantive matters: Jo Beth’s passion for Bobby Lee—“her special love, a roommate, and a miraculous two-and-a-half-year-old bloodhound.” Suddenly Bobby Lee’s gone, dognapped by Jimmy Joe Lane, a loopy good ol’ boy who’s convinced he and Jo Beth were born to be soulmates, even though they’ve met only once, in Georgia’s grim Monroe prison, with bars in between them. Now that he’s paid his debt to society, Jimmy Joe plans to hold Bobby Lee hostage until Jo Beth comes to her senses. Meantime, there’s a two-legged bloodhound to deal with: Dunston County Sheriff Hank Cribbs, of the “dark, flashing eyes and coal black hair,” who adores Jo Beth almost as much as she does Bobby Lee. As Jo Beth tracks Jimmy Joe, Sheriff Hank tracks Jo Beth. Luckily, Jimmy Joe turns out to be a deep-dyed romantic, susceptible to blandishment and bamboozling.
It’s hard to add anything to Bobby Lee’s overjoyed reaction to the outcome everybody’s been awaiting: “Arf.”