The Good. [The Bad & The Ugly are at the bottom…]
Back in my HR days, I remember working with a young administrative assistant and her companion dog. She was a Gulf War military veteran, and also the victim of sexual assault while in the military. I don’t know what this brave young woman had been through, but her dog let her make it through her day job and, she swore, made sure she kept up her studies toward her college degree.
We talked about the best ways to keep her dog as unobtrusive as possible—no mean trick for a particularly large German Shepherd. But I was honestly surprised by the negative reactions at the company. People screamed, refused to ride the elevator with them, complained bitterly that she was getting special treatment, and demanded to know why they couldn’t bring their pets to work too.
Eventually, she resigned. Although she graciously insisted it was to pursue her education full time, I have never gotten past my own guilt at failing to provide a safe and supportive work environment for someone who had already given—and lost—so much.
But I never really thought about what goes into training a service dog. Reading the Marcia Banks and Buddy books has provided both entertainment and a very fun wealth of knowledge about the process. I guarantee that if you read this series, you will never look at service animals in the same way again.
Arsenic and Young Lacy, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery by Kassandra Lamb
Sweet, adorable Lacy has stolen Marcia Banks’ heart, but money is tight. Like it or not, the service dog trainer needs to complete the human phase of the training and deliver the dog to her new owner in order to get paid. But the former Army nurse client turns out to be a challenging trainee. On top of her existing neuroses–which go beyond the psychological damage from a sexual assault during her second tour in Afghanistan–the veteran is now being stalked.
When Marcia receives a bizarre warning to stay away from her client and Lacy is also caught in the stalker’s malicious orbit, Sheriff Will Haines steps in to investigate. Marcia finds this both endearing and annoying, especially when he expects her to stay on the sidelines. The training fee would make her solvent again, but how can she put her dogs at risk?
Maybe Marcia should be more worried about herself, since the stalker has decided to pay her off in a very different way.
My Review: 4 stars out of 5
Kasandra Lamb has provided another entertaining read for the second book in her series about struggling service dog trainer Marcia Banks and her beloved canine sidekick, Buddy.
As with any foster care situation, it’s often impossible to provide the affection and guidance your young charges need without becoming emotionally involved yourself. Marcia has fallen in love with beautiful young Lacy, one of the service dogs she’s training. At the same time, she’s both sympathetic to and suspicious of her new client, former military nurse (and sexual assault victim) Rainey Bryant.
In addition to her obvious and complex emotional problems, Rainey also appears to be the victim of a stalker. Is it her assailant from military days, angry that Rainey’s accusations cut short his military career? Is it her former boyfriend or even her self-centered best friend? And what secrets is her sister hiding in the house they share?
In the best amateur sleuth tradition, this character-driven tale takes Marcia into the path of danger. One of the requirements of the amateur detective genre is a strong connection to the police—in this case, Marcia’s boyfriend Will, a local sheriff.
He gestured toward me. ‘This the girlfriend you been telling me about, who keeps getting herself in trouble?’ Will looked up at him, then turned his gaze to me. His eyes softened and his mouth quirked up on one end. ‘Afraid so.’
But both Marcia and Will have too much baggage for the course of true love to go smoothly or even allow them to communicate about where the difficulties lie. At the same time, Rainey’s fragile emotional and mental state interferes with her training process with Lacy. And as if that isn’t enough, there is a real and physical danger from Rainey’s stalker which turns deadly when first Marcia’s dog and then her friend are poisoned.
In the best amateur sleuth tradition, Marcia decides it’s up to her to protect her dogs and her client (decidedly, in that order!) by investigating the crimes herself. This is set against her developing relationship with Will, stalled now partly because Sheriff Will’s department is understaffed, but mostly because of the inability on both sides to communicate, and the need both have to guard against being hurt again.
The only thing that I wish had gone differently was some foreshadowing and red herrings that failed to hide the fairly obvious villain. One problem with a cozy detective story as opposed to a police procedural, is that the murderer pretty much has to be someone involved in the story, with clues shared fairly (along with red herrings). And if there are relatively few characters, it makes it easier to guess the killer’s identity too early in the story.
Author Kassandra Lamb handles these issues with humor and a light touch. There are well-rounded supporting characters so necessary to any series, and a nice sense of life in a small Florida town. “She’d caught me, one time early on, eyeing her unusual garb and had cackled. ‘Honey, this is Florida, land of wear whatever ya darn well please.'”
And amateur detective Marcia also has a sense of humor about her attempts to play detective. “I silently cursed TV shows and mystery novels that taught people how to commit crimes more effectively.”
But despite the emotional roadblocks—for both Marcia and Rainey—we do get to see characters and relationships develop over the course of the story. And even more fun for me as reader, we get to find out more about the surprisingly fascinating process of teaching dogs to become the companions that let an emotionally or physically challenged person function in the real world. For example, I had no idea that dogs learn not only from their trainers, but from observing other dogs as well. Kassandra Lamb is absolutely brilliant about the way she showcases the growth of the book’s real stars—the ones with paws and a tail.
**I received this book for free from the publisher or author in order to provide an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
- Book Title: Arsenic and Young Lacy, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery
- Author: Kassandra Lamb
- Genre: Mystery
- Publisher: misterio press LLC (September 5, 2016)
- Length: 197 pages
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I have this teensy little caffeine addiction—a life hazard unless you come from Seattle, which is pretty much coffee-operated. But, my fellow well-caffeinated addicts, there is good news. My sister just sent me this link to a Washington Post story about a new article in Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, which found that “higher caffeine intake in women 65 and older was associated with reduced odds of developing dementia or cognitive impairment”.
You know what this means? I only have a few years to train myself up to ingesting caffeine at the levels needed to ensure I never develop dementia or cognitive impairment. After that, I’ll be writing this blog a further 50 years, or until I’m 115 (which a new article in Nature claims is the maximum human life expectancy).
The Ugly. [WARNING: brace yourselves for scary clowns]
Forget the zombie apocalypse. The scariest things out there have red hair and funny noses. And they’re out to get us. A report from USA Today tracks the increase in scary clown threats in ten states. It’s only a matter of time before they reach you.
So be on your guard. Make sure your children know that extra large shoes, a bicycle horn, and/or a particularly undersized vehicle spell danger. I suggest that you drink lots of (perfectly safe and healthy–see above) coffee so you’ll be wide awake and ready when they come for you.