To Bark or Not to Bark, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery

    • 5.0 • 4 Ratings
    • $4.99
    • $4.99

Publisher Description

Just because you're paranoid...

Service dog trainer Marcia Banks-Haines tackles a locked room mystery in a haunted house, while training the recipient of her latest dog.

The border collie, Dolly has been trained to clear rooms for an agoraphobic Marine who was ambushed in a bombed-out building in Syria. But the phantom attackers in his psyche turn out to be the least of his troubles when Marcia finds his ex-wife's corpse in his master bedroom, with the door bolted from the inside.

Was it suicide or murder? Marcia can't see her client as a killer, but the local sheriff can.

Then the Marine reports hearing his ex calling for him to join her on the other side of the grave. Is his house really haunted, or is he hallucinating?

Marcia has lost a client to suicide before. She's not going to lose another!

Mysteries & Thrillers
July 16
Misterio press LLC
Draft2Digital, LLC

Customer Reviews

Barb Taub ,

A clever, humorous, occasionally terrifying, but always character-driven series.

Marcia Banks-Haines has a problem. It's not that people mispronounce her name (it's “Mar-SEE-a” and never “Mar-sha”). She's no longer that Yankee divorcee trying to fit into a quirky little Florida town, now that she's an accepted member of the community. She's not avoiding marriage or children either, now that she's married to police detective Will and they have a baby on the way. And it's certainly not that she's still struggling to build her service-dog training business, because despite some tough times during the pandemic, she's not only established her business, but she and Will are also setting up their own private detective agency.

No, the real problem is that people keep dying everywhere she goes. As soon as she gets a smart, adorable service dog ready to provide love and support to a new client, someone gets murdered. And Marcia, her service training dog Buddy, and her family and friends get involved. But with a baby on the way, a new career starting, and so much of her earlier life-trauma now resolved, Marcia is more convinced than ever that dangerous investigations are just what she, her dogs, and her family do not need.

That certainty lasts until she's putting her crazy-smart new trainee service dog, a border collie named Dolly, through her paces in preparation for turning her over to her new owner, an agoraphobic Marine. Already uncomfortable at being caught in the awkward triangle between her client, his ex-wife, and her new fiance,  Marcia is horrified to look through the window of a locked room and spot a body.

This is a classic locked-room mystery, and author Kassandra Lamb doesn't let us down. The essence of the true locked-room is just that: a seemingly impossible crime. As both Marcia and her new client are suspects, we explore the possible solutions.

In a classic locked room mystery, these might include a patsy trapped in the room with the victim, and thus immediately suspect. Although neither Marcia nor her client were actually in the locked room, they were in the house and the local sheriff treats them as suspects.
Another common trope is that the victim isn't really dead, and the first one into the locked room actually uses the confusion to complete the murder. Neither Marcia nor her client Herb know the cause of death because they didn't enter the room, nor did they see the actual entry when the police arrive to find what looks like suicide.
Sometimes the murderer has actually done the crime at a different time and/or place, and sets things up to make it look like it happened in the locked room. This can include falsified sound effects to make it seem a gun has gone off or the time-honored smashed clock or watch to confuse the time of death. Or it could be that the victim doesn't realize they have received a fatal wound or poison, and proceeds to lock themselves into the room before succumbing.
And of course, there may be a secret entry to the room which only the murderer knows about.

I'm not going to tell you which combination of the above was used here, except to say that I was sure I knew the murderer right up to the point where the actual killer (and my error) were revealed. As always with Kassandra Lamb's mysteries, the solution is character-driven, and involves the author's own expertise as a psychotherapist to highlight the motivations, flaws, and strengths of the characters. But it is satisfying to see the ways Marcia has grown and developed over the course of the Buddy mysteries. It's still full of humor, local color, and a satisfying support cast. But it's also a chance for Marcia to show how much she has changed from the fragile young woman we first met in Book 1 to this strong, confident, and protective woman.

I recommend this series to anyone who enjoys a clever, humorous, occasionally terrifying, but always character-driven series. Each book can be read on its own, but will be so much more entertaining if you follow the series. After all, strong women, adorable dogs, danger, romance, humor, and mystery—what's not to love?

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