Arf! Can you read your pet’s mind? That’s exactly what happens when professional dog walker Ellie Engleman is with her dog, Rudy, or in fact with any of her canine charges—whenever they allow her into their minds. Begging for Trouble is author Judi McCoy’s fourth “dog walker mystery,” and it will engage both canine aficionados and lovers of a good ongoing romance.

The romance portion involves the overly curious Ellie, who’s deeply involved with her handsome, workaholic and by-the-book cop boyfriend, Sam. He’s leery of Ellie’s involvement in recent crimes—she seems to have played a part in several of his past murder investigations, and it’s put her at personal risk. Sam’s instinct to protect his woman vies with his hard-earned knowledge that she’ll go her own way no matter what he suggests, and the two go on a merry chase during their separate investigations, while at the same time finding deep contentment in each other’s arms.

The dog-and-mystery show belongs to Ellie’s canine friends, as she becomes party to their thoughts while whirling them on their early spring walks through Manhattan’s streets and parks. Ellie’s just found out that one of her dog-owner clients, Rob, is a well-known drag queen, and she and Sam are in the audience one night to watch him perform when a deadly stabbing is committed offstage. Rob is found bending over the body of his understudy, Carmella, and becomes suspect numero uno. Rob’s tiny pup, Bitsy, is stashed in a carrier under the dressing table throughout the horrendous event, and witnesses her owner’s arrest amid the blood and mayhem. She could provide a clue to the real murderer’s identity if she could describe what happened, but she’s too traumatized to remember.

Ellie and Sam trip over each other’s feet as they wend their own ways toward solving the crime. Ellie’s unorthodox ability to interact mentally with her canine friends is a well-kept secret—who would believe her if she told someone?—so she treads on shaky ground as she searches for clues, and even takes Bitsy to visit pet psychic Madame Orzo. A swarm of New York apartment dwellers of every stripe and type, along with Ellie’s offbeat friends and family, add great color to the story—but the real kudos in this lively whodunit belong to the four-legged animals, who yap their way comfortably through the action.

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