Dogged Deception

It’s a beautiful October day in Aspen Falls, Colorado, and veterinarian Dr. Ashley Hart plans to go hiking with man’s best friend—her Dalmatian, Max—and her good pal, park ranger Cole Hawke... that is, until an unusual emergency call to treat a cow shot with an arrow delays them. Their day goes to the dogs, however, when an identical injury involving a sheriff ’s deputy K-9 combines with a surprise blizzard to derail their plans entirely.

Now forced to wait out the snow at the lovely but isolated Evergreen Haven Lodge, Ashley and Cole are surrounded by strangers, all of whom are acting cagey about their ties to each other. Ashley doesn’t think much of it, though, until she investigates a suspicious noise in the night and makes a horrifying discovery: the dead body of Diana Corning, killed in the lodge kitchen.

Unfortunately, Diana’s death isn’t the only cold-blooded crime committed at Evergreen Haven, and the victim tally is soon nearly as long as the list of suspects. Between murderous intentions, mounting tensions amid the guests, a maimed police dog, and a major storm that has them trapped with a killer, the stakes soon reach desperate heights. Ashley is resolved to collar the culprit despite being warned to mind her own business, but will her dogged determination lead to her own demise?

The Characters

Social butterfly and owner of the Mountain Goat Coffee Company, 50-year-old Melanie Lyons always seems to know the latest town gossip. Her coffee shop is located next door to the Happy Tails Veterinary Clinic and she befriends Ashley immediately, always eager to discuss her small herd of goats and two pet Barnevelder chickens, Butch and Cassidy.

With a degree in acting and a penchant for drama, Melanie sings in the church choir and often volunteers to be in the town’s Old West reenactments and other festivals. But Ashley detects another kind of acting going on . . . Melanie lives next door to the horse farm where the trainer Bruce Peterson was found dead in a stall, and she seems to know more about it than she’s telling.

A member of one of the town’s oldest families, Bruce was a kind man, dedicated to his job, and one who genuinely cared about the well-being of the horses he worked with. He was loved by all—or so it seemed. But when Ashley discovers evidence that his death was no accident, a cloud of suspicion settles over the town of Aspen Falls. Who would want the talented horse trainer dead? As it turns out, Bruce had a few secrets of his own. Ashley must unleash the truth and catch a thoroughbred killer before the culprit sets his sights on her.

38-year-old Cole Hawke is a U.S. Park Ranger in the White River National Forest. His friends would describe him as good-natured, dependable, and smart, and some would even say he’s one of Aspen Falls most eligible bachelors. An avid cross-country skier and mountain biker, he loves the great outdoors and spends as much time in it as possible, both on the job and off. He’s a member of the In CaHOOTS Bird Watchers club, and he often takes the unofficial lead on the hikes.

Cole is open to a serious romance but he hasn’t found the right woman—until Ashley moves to town. She has a beautiful smile and a spark he can’t resist, but he worries about her getting mixed up in the murder of local trainer, Bruce Peterson.

38-year-old veterinarian Dr. Ashley Hart is always up for a challenge. Smart, bighearted, and driven, she jumps at the chance to open her own practice in Aspen Falls. She’s thrilled that the residents have chosen her to be their veterinarian, and she looks forward to the adventures she and her Dalmatian, Max, will have in their new home. What she doesn’t expect, however, is the menagerie of mysteries that await them in the charming mountain town.

Independent and spunky, 32-year-old Holly Kipp grew up in Gilmore Creek, Colorado, a sleepy town located about an hour away from Aspen Falls. She’s always loved animals and decided to marry her passion for pets with her desire to open her own pet grooming business. 3 Alarm Fur is a full-service pet salon located in the town’s old firehouse, across the hall from Ashley’s clinic, and Holly and Ashley hit it off immediately. Holly enjoys a good conspiracy theory and is always ready to lend a sleuthing hand. She is also a member of the Bookaru Book Club and she never misses a meeting if they’re reading a mystery novel.