Being a vet who does house calls, Kate Turner comes upon an amusing and eccentric cross-section of Hudson River Valley denizens whose pets need some of her tender loving medical care. In Chained, one of her patients was injured while adventuring in the woods, but the bone he brought back as treasure was human, not animal. It turns out to be from the body of a high school golden boy Flynn who left for California dreams ten years ago–or so people thought.

In true Jessica Fletcher tradition, the community expects Kate to solve the mystery by asking questions as she goes about her vet business. The romantic element is complicated by her police officer friend going back to his former girlfriend and the visit of her college boyfriend, on sabbatical from his anthropology dig in Africa. He’s matured into quite the dashing man, but her feelings are conflicted.

Talking to family, teachers, and classmates of the murdered Flynn, she gets an idea of his character. Her strategy is to cast a wide net and narrow it by learning more about his milieu and then about that final day when he left, only to be murdered.

I was disappointed by Chained. While the mystery is basically fair in that we get the clues as Turner does and none are hidden from us, the resolution is through revelation, not reasoning. Someone feels threatened by Kate’s investigation and cracks, exposing everything. That’s never as satisfying as the detective figuring it out.

That would not be enough to disappoint me, though. For me, the biggest problem is how flat the characters feel. Frankly, the book feels workshopped, with characters developed in writing software. They aren’t interesting. Of course, Luke’s girlfriend is a mercenary Barbie whose no better than she should be. Of course, the stepdad is abusive. Of course, her assistant is hyper-competent, ready to do a style makeover or muck about with a muskrat. Kidding, no muskrats were harmed in the writing of this mystery. Even the “write what you know” veterinary medicine feels more like a public service announcement than reality.

Here’s the thing. This is not a bad mystery. It’s fair. It’s competent. It’s just not as good as it should be. The foundation is there for a great series, but Brady needs to free herself from conventions and stereotypes. If Luke’s love interest could have been a charming, fun, and woman-friendly woman, that would have been interesting. As it is, she is banal because she is completely typecast as the romantic competition of a dime novel, catty, oversexed, grasping, and materialistic. There’s also the eccentric, the recluse, the mad mountain man, the grifting realtor, and so on. Brady has the foundations for a good series, but she needs to be more surprising.

Chained is the third in the Kate Turner DVM series. I received an e-galley from the publisher through NetGalley.