Near the end of Anne Barton's fascinating novel, A Switch in
Time, Sheriff Pete Torgeson tells his deputy, Clay Caldwell, "There
are enough red herrings in this case to lure a fishing fleet
out to sea." The case the two are discussing is the fatal
poisoning of Grandma Beulah Glasser, who has been done in by
an overdose of digitalis dog pills prescribed by veterinarian,
Erica Merrill, in this the second volume in Barton's Dr. Erica
Merrill Mystery Series. And Sheriff Torgeson is right on when
he refers to the number of red herrings in the case since author
Barton, a retired Canadian veterinarian herself, is more than
adept at using them to keep her readers interested and entertained.
Trouble is, sometimes her red herrings turn out to be live bait.
Although Erica Merrill graduated top of her class in vet school,
she's still got trouble establishing her practice in her home
town of Boulder, a farming and ranching community of Mountain
County. Her receptionist is inept and must be fired. Her competitor,
Dr. Trent Somers, has already stolen away one of her employees
and bears enough of a grudge against her to file a complaint
with the State Board of Examiners. Her Dad is still shaking his
head over why she became a vet, and her love life has gotten
complicated, first with her high school sweetheart, Deputy Sheriff
Caldwell, and now with the entry of a recently arrived medical
doctor substituting for the town's long-time physician on an
unexplained leave of absence so he isn't available when Beulah
has her attack. But most of all Erica's a feisty woman in a man's
world determined to be twice as good at what she does just to
keep her practice going and her head above water.
But with all this baggage on her back it's no wonder she gets
upset when she is questioned about why she prescribed the digitalis
for the dog, whether she prescribed too high a dose or too many
tablets and whether she was sure she gave them in a capped child-proof
container to Beulah's granddaughter, Nicole Maynard, the nine-year-old
owner of the ailing poodle. And the plot gets more complicated
with where the pills are kept, who can access them, and what
other pills, like aspirin, are kept nearby. Remember the red
herrings Sheriff Torgeson referred to?
Then there's the family, related and extended. Who might want
to see Beulah into an early grave? And why? How about the sister-in-law,
Beryl? Or the daughter, Denise? Or Denise's estranged husband
who is Nicole's father? Or Denise's boyfriend who gets run off
by her husband? Could Beulah's long lost son still be alive?
And what about the husband and wife housekeeping duo?
They've all got their own fish to fry but most frightening of
all is the precocious nine-year-old Nicole, so adept at opening
child-proof vials, keeping an inventory of the pills around the
house and being obnoxious to adults she doesn't like? Is she
capable of teaming up with her Dad to get at Beulah's substantial
inheritance as Clay surmises at one point? More red herrings
but somewhere too is the live bait.
While every mystery novel takes us on a fishing expedition of
one sort or another, red herrings, live bait and all, Barton's
book is definitely one whale of an entertaining tale that should
net a lot of readers in its wake. Readers can reel in their own
copy from Husion House Publishing at 1-866-485-5556 or by fax
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
M. Wayne Cunningham writes his reviews in Kamloops BC. Formerly an
English instructor and a senior manager in post-secondary education
in three provinces he also served as the Executive Director of the
Saskatchewan Arts Board. A member of the Crime Writers of Canada and
the Canadian Authors Association, his reviews have appeared in various
publications including a weekly column he wrote for two years for
the Kamloops Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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