The Hiding Place by Paula Munier

By  0 Comments

The Hiding Place by Paula Munier is an entertaining mystery with rescue dogs. What more do we need in a light, easy read?

Mercy Carr visits a dying old man, August Pitts, to ask him about a case her grandfather, Red O’Sullivan, the sheriff, had failed to solve. Pitts had been Red’s partner and deputy sheriff when Red was killed. Pitts’ sister, Eveline, points to some boxes and says that August wanted Mercy to have them. They are Red’s old files on the case of Beth Kilgore, a young woman whose disappearance the sheriff was never able to solve. Pitts’ final words to Mercy as she leaves are “Find the girl. Save my dog for me.” Mercy slips out of the house with her bomb-sniffing dog, Elvis, and Pitts’ dog, Sunny, a beautiful golden retriever. Pitts’ sister is furious at Mercy as she speeds away.

Years earlier, Beth Kilgore, a young woman, was married to an abusive man at a young age by her equally abusive father. The father came to the sheriff to report his daughter’s disappearance. Around the same time, George Rucker’s wife, Ruby, writes him from Las Vegas to say she is never returning. Rumors were that Red and Ruby were having an affair.

Troy Warner is a Vermont game warden and former close friend of Mercy. She broke off their relationship when Troy’s wife showed up at a dinner-dance party and cut in on Troy and Mercy dancing. Troy swears their marriage is over, but Mercy feels betrayed.

Troy is searching for Joey Colby, a young wildlife biologist and filmmaker who went missing a few days ago. Helping him search for Colby are Susie Bear, Troy’s Newfoundland retriever mix and an excellent search-and-rescue dog, and Gil Guerrette, a national park ranger with excellent tracking skills. They find Colby, but he’s dead. His camp has been ransacked. His clothes and camera are missing. They call in the forensics team.

Mercy visits her grandmother, Patience, on the way home from visiting Pitts. Patience is a veterinarian and amateur chef. As they eat coffeecake and drink tea, her grandmother fills her in on the sad tale of Beth Kilgore. Later, at her cabin, while Mercy is going over the files at her kitchen table, Elvis barks his alert bark. Mercy looks outside to see a red Toyota that she doesn’t recognize. The stranger approaches and knocks on the door. When the door opens, Elvis flies at the man, licking the tears from his face. Mercy is astounded. Elvis is not a licker.

The man is former veteran Wesley Hallett, Elvis’ first handler. He tells Mercy things about Martinez, her dead fiancé, and how Martinez became Elvis’ second handler. Mercy was unaware of the story and would have doubted it except for Elvis’ obvious devotion to Hallett. He has come to claim Elvis, but Mercy isn’t having it. Elvis is her dog now and her only connection to Martinez, who was killed in action in Afghanistan. As a former military policewoman, Mercy suffered her own injuries in the war. She felt as if Elvis, who suffered from canine PTSD, had saved her as much as she saved him after she rescued him from the shelter where he was abandoned.

To complicate matters even more, the man who killed Mercy’s grandfather escapes from prison. Someone leaves a bomb at Patience’s clinic. The bomb goes off and Patience breaks her arm when Elvis jumps on her, knocking her away from the main force of the blast. When she goes missing later on, Mercy teams up with Troy to find her and find out who killed the research biologist.
Though the main story is supposedly solving the mystery of Beth Kilgore’s disappearance, it is not as urgent as solving the more current events such as who bombed Patience’s clinic and caused her to disappear. George Rucker is a prime suspect. Hallet’s claim that Elvis is his dog creates a lot of angst for Mercy.

With her plot lines in place, Munier takes the reader on a journey that involves mystery, romance, the wild ruggedness of Vermont and animals, especially dogs. She explains how the moose population was decimated and now is recovering in terms lay readers can accept while communicating her love of the outdoors and Vermont’s landscape and climate. But most of all, she loves dogs and cats. The novel is a quick read but satisfying to those with a fondness for the background elements.

Munier is an accomplished writer with several books under her belt. The Hiding Place is the third book in the Mercy Carr and Elvis series with a fourth book on the way. If you love dogs and mysteries, add The Hiding Place to your reading list. If not, move on; this one is not for you. ■