2006, Cormorant Books Inc
Rating: (Good +)
First Sentence: The metal door clicked shut a moment before I realized that my keys were still in my purse, which was hanging on the hook inside the clinic.
Reason for Reading: I was selected to review this book for Front Street Reviews. When the book was offered to me, the description of the book attracted me instantly, being an animal lover and child welfare advocate.
Comments: Set in the growing Saskatoon suburb of Poplar Bluff, Targets of Affection, RG Willems’ debut novel and the first in a new mystery series, takes the reader into the heart of a local pet clinic, introducing Shelby James, a veterinary technician whose love for animals shines through on just about every page. I was instantly drawn to her character, finding her to be intelligent and caring. I suppose it helped that she and I share a couple of things in common besides our love for animals. We both do not like to cook and as a result our husband’s have become the chef; and we both live in fixer-up houses (although I don’t have a purple door), although we lack handyman skills to do much about it.
With an opening scene that makes one’s heart rate go up, the novel gets off to a good start. Miranda Walls and her young daughter, Jessie, bring in an injured dog that requires immediate medical attention. He was the victim of a hit and run accident. Despite the fact that he’s a stray, Miranda volunteers to pay for his treatment and care. Her generous nature and caring heart make it impossible for Shelby not to instantly take a liking to the woman and her child, Jessie. Shelby soon discovers that Miranda and Jessie recently fled from an abusive relationship with Jessie’s father, and it increases her protectiveness for the mother and daughter. She feels drawn to Jessie, a sickly child who Shelby finds she can identify with, having had a difficult childhood herself. In the wake of several near tragedies and learning more about Miranda and Jessie’s life, Shelby uncovers more than she bargained for.
Shelby’s husband Jake, a university professor, offers insight into the psychological aspects of the situation with Miranda and Jessie. Despite a subtle unrest in their marriage, Jake’s support and love for his wife is unwavering. Although of the non-human variety, Shelby also has the support of her dog, Spin, a loyal companion who often accompanies her to work. Shelby’s love for him runs deep.
The author delves into the tie between animal and child abuse like few other fiction writers. It isn’t uncommon for those who abuse and kill animals to eventually escalate to harming humans, especially children. Animals and children are two of the most vulnerable targets in our society. RG Willems takes on these disturbing topics with sensitivity but does not shy away from the harsh reality. Her knowledge and use of medical terminology and procedures without sounding too technical puts the reader directly into the book.
Although the mystery takes its time to reveal itself, the characters and anecdotes surrounding the main story are just as poignant and entertaining. RG Willems has created a cast of characters, both human and animal, that readers, especially animal lovers, will be drawn to. ~Originally published on Front Street Reviews at http://www.frontstreetreviews.com/.