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Finding Mr. Right
by Emily Carmichael
(Bantam, $5.50, PG) ISBN 0-553-57874-X
****
Well known for her historical books, Emily Carmichael appears to be equally comfortable on the contemporary scene. Finding Mr. Right reads like an enjoyable movie of the week. It's fun, witty and wry, with underlying themes of suspense, mayhem and the mysterious.

Lydia Keane is a bitch! Okay, now before you think that I'm being offensive, let me explain. A few days ago she was having an affair with her best friend's husband and was killed along with her married lover. Now she's a bitch of another kind, a reincarnated Welsh Corgi. She's been given a celestial mission; she needs to make amends for having an affair with her good friend's husband. In her new form, she's got to find a perfect husband for her friend Amy.

Amy Cameron's life can only get better. Six months ago her cheating husband was found dead in an alley, along with his lover her best friend. A month after that her home burned down. Amy is a photographer and dog lover who's putting her life back together. When she gets a call from the local shelter telling her that they've found an ugly, fat, stray Corgi, she knows she'll have another dog to care for, until she finds it a home.

Arriving at the shelter, Amy is greeted by Jeff Berenger, a local vet who volunteers his time there. Amy and Jeff had met once before, when Amy was with her husband and Jeff was dating the lovely cheating Lydia, the same Lydia that he's now holding in his arms in her doggie form. As a human, Lydia found Jeff dull. In doggie form she owes her new stitches to him. She's been spayed! And is being affectionately called Miss Piggy!

Lydia the Corgi has her paws full. Amy always was a dud at choosing and keeping males. Here's how Lydia describes Amy's fashion sense. "Amy's jeans made a fashion statement that wouldn't attract anything but a truck from the Salvation Army." Lydia has bigger plans for Amy than Dr. Doofus, the dull vet. She wants to pair Amy with dashing newsman, Tom Gordon and actually sees Jeff and Tom as hamburger vs. lobster.

While Lydia causes most of the mayhem, there's a suspense thread. The killer hasn't been caught, nor has arson been ruled out as the cause for Amy's house fire. Are the two related? When Amy's new home is broken into, the ripple of fear spreads.

Finding Mr. Right is told in alternating points of view. Lydia talks to us in first person . . . umm, first canine. Most of the dry wit comes from her observations, now lower to the ground.

"The furry brown package that I was wrapped in came complete with canine instincts, and my nose itched to goose a couple of dog tushes, but my superior sensibilities triumphed, and I returned the enthusiastic greetings with a curled lip and a throaty rumble."

Being transmogrified from a svelte sexy number to "little brown bag of furry fat who could get high-centered on a bump in the road" provides lots of comic moments.

The mystery thread is weak, so much so that I, somewhat of a mystery novice, saw where it was leading from its introduction, that one sentence that set everything in motion. The villain is so obvious that he might as well wear a V on his clothes. However, the weak mystery didn't bother me. Lydia in her new form is a delight, and when she saves the day, she's so heroic and full of herself that I had visions of sequels. She could be the new Lassie or Rin Tin Tin or even Wishbone.

As a dog, Lydia was superb. It's nice seeing an adulteress find her niche in life. Move over, SEP- Jennifer Crusie - Rachel Gibson - Susan Anderson - Elizabeth Bevarly. You need to make room for a writer whose characters have irrepressible charm and who writes with a feel-good sense of humor.

Dogs lovers will find this book irresistible. But then, so will cat lovers . . . and anybody else who likes a darn good book!

--Linda Mowery


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