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A Round of Appaws

When the general public hears about a hoarding case or learns something about the mental state of a hoarder, the source is usually the local newspaper or TV news station—not a suspense novel found on the shelves of the local mega-bookstore. But Exit Wounds, a novel from J.A. Jance due out in August, includes a hoarder among its characters—and has the potential to bring the issue to thousands, if not millions, of mainstream readers.

The novel begins with the murder of a woman who resides in a mobile home and keeps 17 dogs without the means to care for them or house them properly. The subsequent murder investigation takes on topics that distance this book from the typical crime novel: sexual abuse as a precursor to hoarding, off-site adoptions as a strategy to increase adoption rates, animal control budgeting problems, and implied animal cruelty (a shelter dog who “doesn’t like men much”).

In the author’s note, Jance offers readers further information on hoarding—which she assures them exists “in the real world.” She credits her sister, director of animal control for Pinal County in Arizona, with educating her about hoarding, and in turn informs her readers: “Hoarders think they’re helping, but usually the animals in their ‘care’ are undernourished, unvaccinated, neglected, and unsocialized animals who are difficult to place once removed from their unfortunate environment.”

She emphasizes that readers can make a difference: “When we take a cute, cuddly little puppy into our homes, it is a lifetime commitment that covers the next ten to fifteen years—if we’re very lucky.” Jance advises pet owners to seek professional help for their pets’ behavior problems, and, when looking for a new dog, to “avail [themselves] of pet rescue operations all over the country.” Finally, she asks readers to let their local animal control agencies know about hoarders in their communities.

Not only does Exit Wounds take on the significant topic of hoarding, but it also delivers a gripping story that will keep readers turning pages until its conclusion.

 

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