After the success of last year’s award-nominated debut, A Borrowing of Bones, Paula Munier returns with the duo of veteran Mercy Carr and her bomb-sniffing dog, Elvis, in Blind Search.

With a strong setting in the Green Mountains of Vermont, the fall season is rife with hunters when a nine-year old autistic boy is lost in the woods. Henry Jenkins likes to wander in the woods, but when he’s a witness to the murder of a young woman, his small confidence is shaken to the core, and he runs and hides.

Knowing a murderer mingles with the hunters and may be present at the home of Mercy’s friend, billionaire Daniel Feinberg, makes the investigation Mercy soon undertakes even more difficult, despite the presence and help of game warden Troy Warner and his search-and-rescue dog, Susie Bear. For there are more things going on in the woods than murder, including gun running and drugs.

There are also the inescapable feelings that run like an electric shock between Mercy and Troy, feelings she’s done her best to ignore.

When a blizzard strands everyone, Mercy and Troy need to protect Henry from the murderer while they track down the person responsible. And then a second death occurs.

Munier knows about dogs and the woods. Auntie M never stopped to think a bear’s front paw print would be roughly the same in length and width, while a hind print would be longer than it was wide. In the same way, she draws on an old Vermont folk song to calm Henry. These things add a multi-dimensional feel that makes the setting leap off the page.

But one of Auntie M’s favorite hallmarks are the asides Mercy makes that reveal her character: “As a matter of course, Mercy never trusted anyone who flipped their hair. There was no hair flipping in the army.” Another character has “…the resourcefulness of a Kardashian.” Mercy comes across as someone who’s capable, and while she’s seen what is evil in the world, she hasn’t lost her compassion and her caring spirit.

With its tight plot, realistic characters, definitive setting, and those wonderful dogs, there’s no wonder this one is Highly Recommended.