Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Chihuahua of the Baskervilles by Esri Allbritten

I totally disagree with the copy on the flap of Esri Allbritten's debut mystery, Chihuahua of the Baskervilles. It calls this book "Uproariously funny," and says it's "Sure to leave you in stitches."  That does an injustice to readers expecting a hilarious book. I loved this debut book. I thought the premise was original, quite a departure from most mysteries. I appreciated the three-person team investigating the mystery, and thought they were terrific characters with a great deal of potential for future books. They fit well together, and their conversations were funny. And, I loved all of the historical detail that crept into this book, without appearing historical. But I think those comments about humor will sidetrack readers looking for something slapstick, when this book is so much better than slapstick.

When Charlotte Baskerville, the owner of Petey's Closet, a company that designs clothes for small dogs, thinks she sees the ghost of her beloved Chihuahua, Petey, the staff of Tripping Magazine is dispatched to Manitou Springs, Colorado, to investigate. Tripping, a magazine that reports on travel destinations for those who believe in the paranormal, is edited by Angus MacGregor. Suki Oota, a former photographer for National Geographic, is the perfect person to set up shots of ghostly images. Michael Abernathy would be the new writer/graphic designer. And, since Tripping was actually about to fold, this would be their one chance to put the magazine in the black and attract readers.

When the team arrives in Manitou Springs, they find Charlotte surrounded by people who might not wish the best for her; a scheming husband who lost the family's first fortune, a granddaughter who drinks, a dog trainer with dreams of his own show, a designer who resents Charlotte's claim on her designs, and a neighbor who wants her to sponsor his dog food business. Any one of these people might have an interest in upsetting the older woman who hears and sees her late beloved dog. Angus and the team are there to write a story for the magazine about a ghostly apparition. But, they also have an interest in protecting the woman who sees Petey. Who better to investigate a ghost that seems to give advice and leaves paw prints than the team sent to cover its appearance?

Along with the story of Charlotte Baskerville and Petey, the team also finds time to cover the quirky town of Manitou Springs with its annual Emma Crawford Festival and Memorial Coffin Races, the haunted Miramont Castle, and a restaurant supposedly haunted. Petey's ghostly story is just one more story in a town that would definitely attract readers of Tripping Magazine. It's fun to watch the cynical magazine team explore Manitou Springs. These additional stories add to the charm of the book.

Chihuahua of the Baskervilles is a lively, fun story. Angus, Michael and Suki work well as a team, and they come at their story from different angles, which adds to the humor. But, Allbritten's debut is also a solid, well-written mystery. And, the ghost stories of Manitou Springs actually are tales from the history of the town. So, there are many possibilities for an investigating team that searches for ghosts and haunted destinations.

Allbritten's debut mystery offers a good mystery, a terrific team of sleuths, ghost stories, and a number of possibilities for future locations. I can't vote, but half-way through 2011, Chihuahua of the Baskervilles would be one of my nominees for the Agatha for Best First Mystery.

Esri Allbritten's website is

And, for actual information about the ghosts of Manitou Springs, check out Dark Destinations at 

Chihuahua of the Baskervilles by Esri Allbritten. St. Martin's Minotaur. ©2011. ISBN 9780312569150 (hardcover), 288p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Sounds like a winner to me! Thanks for the recommendation. A 3-person team for the investigation is intriguing!

Lesa said...

It is a winner, Elizabeth. I think you'll like it. And, that 3-person team works well, and it's going to continue in the series.

Barb Goffman said...

Lesa, you could vote ... if you come to Malice Domestic next spring. And you could recommend this book for an Agatha nomination if you register for Malice before the end of the year. Maybe Malice 24 will be the year you swing east? It's so easy to register ...

Anyway, thanks for another great review.

Barb Goffman
Program Chair
Malice Domestic

Chantelle Aimée said...

I'm putting this on my list ASAP! Thanks, Lesa!

Lesa said...

Barb, Barb, Barb. Nothing like tempting me. My friend, Kaye Barley, is already tempting me to go to Malice next spring. I'll keep it in mind. Thanks!

Lesa said...


The author is a big fan of Chihuahuas, planning to get a couple when her cat gives up. You should enjoy it!

Kay said...

Oh, Lesa! I've got to read this. First, the cover chihuahua looks like my late, much loved, much missed Peewee. Second, just love chihuahuas. Third, love the entire idea of the story & paranormals are right up my alley. Thanks for letting us all know of this new book & new to me author.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Kay. I have a friend here in the library system who is a Chihuahua owner, and she's waiting to read it, too. She wanted to know what I thought first, because she can't handle it when a dog dies in the course of the book. No worries, here. Petey had died of old age before the book began. I think you'll love this with all three of those points in your favor.

Anonymous said...

I love your reviews! I can see that this book is a must have for me.

The chihuahua in the picture looks exactly like my first chihuahua.


Lesa said...

Thank you, Brenda. The cover artist must have done a darned good job with that Chihuahua because it's catching the eye of Chihuahua lovers. I think you'll enjoy it. And, you'll want to read the interview tomorrow.

I'm so glad you love the reviews. Thanks!