Gerald Hammond, Hammond World Atlas Corporation. Minotaur Books, $22.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-312-24256-5
Filled with a satisfying blend of Scottish slang and dialects, as well as a wealth of dog-training and breeding information, this is another enjoyable tale from the ever-reliable Hammond (Bloodlines; Sting in the Tail; etc.). Dog breeder John Cunningham--and his family and staff at Three Oaks Kennels--face a crime that, if unsolved, could threaten their livelihood and their lives. When Dougal Webb, a young farm manager who was courting one of Cunningham's kennel maids, goes missing, he leaves behind evidence of some shady dealings. Since Webb had tried to blackmail Cunningham shortly before his disappearance, the breeder's entire household comes under suspicion. Meanwhile, another of Cunningham's kennel-maids is almost hit by a car, and an unidentified corpse turns up in the woods. Before the situation is set aright, the Cunninghams and the local police inspector must pick their way through a tangle of blackmail, chicanery, murder, fraud and old grievances that enmeshes the fates of characters high and low. Though the novel begins slowly, Cunningham provides an intelligent prism through which a parade of colorful, often villainous characters are refracted. From pompous landowner Sir Ian Bewlay of Marksmuir to ambitious political aspirant Timothy ""Sanctimonious"" Pratt, to the hardworking housemaid Mrs. Dundee, Hammond's characters ring true as brass, and his wry, subtle humor harmonizes all the doings nicely. (Dec.) FYI: Hammond also writes mysteries featuring Scottish gunsmith Keith Calder.
Reviewed on: 11/29/1999