Although BLOODLINES is subtitled “A Dog Lover’s Mystery,” it is hard to imagine that anyone capable of love would not be moved by Susan Conant’s story. Her characters fall into three categories: people who use and abuse animals for profit; people who cherish and defend animals, like the protagonist-sleuth; and the animals themselves, who are so helpless in a world dominated by human beings.

The author makes her sympathies clear at the end of her first chapter, when she promises that in her book, no dogs will die. It is hardly surprising, then, that when the dog writer Holly Winter happens along just after Diane Sweet has been murdered in her own pet shop, Holly’s first question involves the welfare of the puppies inside. The mystery which Holly actually sets out to solve is the disappearance of an appealing young malamute called Missy. However, in her search for Missy, Holly finds clues concerning Diane’s murder and then of a larger criminal conspiracy. Fortunately, Holly can rely on two good friends, Steve Delaney, her favorite veterinarian, and Kevin Denehy, a policeman, both of whom know that she will risk death to rescue an animal in distress, as indeed she does in Conant’s dramatic conclusion.

BLOODLINES is both an expose of a conscienceless industry and an interesting mystery. It must be admitted, however, that for most readers the high point of the story does not come when the murderer of a rather negligible human being is apprehended but instead, when Holly leads Missy and that nameless, half-starved golden retriever to freedom.