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            Dead Canaries Don't Sing
            Cynthia Baxter
            fiction, mystery
            Reviewed by: Carrie Byrd
            Review posted: 7.23.04

            The first in what I hope is to become a long running series of mysteries, Dead Canaries Don’t Sing introduces readers to Dr. Jessica Popper and a menagerie of pets, friends, victims and suspects. Dr. Popper, hold the soda jokes please, runs a mobile veterinary office, taking care of animals large and small. When she runs across a body on her way to a client, she finds herself tangled up in a more complicated mess than she could imagine.

            Before long, Jessica is embroiled in a private investigation, interviewing snake handlers, dog owners and cat fanciers in her attempts to dig up the truth before the dirt settles over the grave. Her only real clue is a dead canary found next to the body. She doggedly seeks the truth, sniffing out suspects like a professional.

            Unfortunately for her, the professionals aren’t as impressed as she hoped, including her still-hot old flame, private detective Nick Burby. Her tumultuous relationship with Nick presents as much of mystery to Jessica as the murder. Baxter never allows the relationship issues to detract from the matter at hand, however, and every new aspect of the story she introduces drives the plot along.

            Baxter introduces a plethora of minor characters, using them to introduce us to the life of Dr. Popper and to draw us deeper into the story. It is easy to get involved with our fearless heroine as she sticks her nose in where it doesn’t belong. A natural protagonist, we are cheering for her from page one, sympathizing when she trips over the dog and misses her morning coffee. She works as a character because she’s real. Rather than being too good to be true, she’s just bad enough to be real. Baxter obviously has a real knack for characterization, and it shines through in this novel.

            Best of all, even seasoned mystery readers will find themselves challenged to discover which of Baxter’s characters will be the answer to whodunit? Baxter offers up plenty of likely suspects to choose from, and picking a favorite to win is a challenge. The clues are scattered throughout the story, and only a true bloodhound will be able to solve the mystery before the conclusion of the book!