Friday, May 31, 2013

Suspect

Robert Crais is one of my favorite mystery/suspense writers. I enjoy his series, starring private detective Elvis Cole and his silent but deadly partner Joe Pike, and I equally enjoy his stand-alone novels, with The Two Minute Rule and Demolition Angel being my favorites so far. Well, okay, and Hostage. With Suspect, there's another stand-alone to add to the list, and it features a relationship even more interesting than that of Cole and Pike: Scott James and his new partner, Maggie.

Scott is an LAPD cop with PTSD, trying to recover from a violent assault in which his partner, Stephanie, was murdered and he almost lost his life. Maggie is a sniffer dog, formerly with the Marines, who lost her handler to an IED and is equally traumatized. Eight months later, the two are paired as Scott tries out for the K9 unit as a way to stay on the job without having to deal with a human partner, since he has a massive case of survivor's guilt. Previous to this opportunity, Scott was a cat person, so he doesn't know quite what to expect, and although he conscientiously follows directions, the platoon chief of the LAPD K9 unit doesn't know if he has it in him; likewise, although Maggie had top-notch training as a Marine, overcoming the cringe factor (in which you panic and fall apart when you hear a loud noise) is even tougher for a dog.

But when Scott meets Maggie, something clicks for him, and after Maggie accepts Scott as pack and then as alpha, the two are inseparable. Scott decides to make use of his time off-duty to try to find the guys who killed Stephanie, not only to solve the case but also to overcome the feeling that he abandoned her at the crucial moment, and Maggie is way more than just along for the ride.

Robert Crais took a risk with this book: It is W. C. Fields who is credited with the quote, "Never work with children or animals," and although he supposedly intended it as a caution that if you did, they would steal the show, there is also an aspect of risk in writing about dogs--going too anthropomorphic, and/or getting sentimental or "cheesy." I'm sure that if someone who is not Robert Crais pitched a police procedural in which some of the chapters were written from a dog's point of view, that person would get short shrift from his editor, but since it is Robert Crais, not only did the book get published, but he did a stellar job! He certainly did his research, and lets us inside the mind and senses of a German Shepherd with fascinating accuracy and detail. Crais is an expert at writing about broken, damaged people who nonetheless manage to save themselves (and others), and now he's added an heroic, broken dog to his repertoire. If you, too, are a cat person (guilty), you will open your heart to the canine persuasion by the end of this book. Oh, and it's a great mystery, too!

Editor's note: The library also owns this as an audio book...

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