I can't think of a better way to kick off the new year than with a review of a new Robert Crais book! And if this book is an indication of how 2013 is going to be, we're in for a great reading year. Happy New Year everyone!
Maggie is a dual-trained military patrol/explosives-detection dog. Scott is a rising star in the LAPD, about to be assigned to the elite Metro Division. Then fate steps in and shatters both their worlds. Maggie's handler, Pete, is killed by a suicide bomber; Scott's partner, Stephanie, is murdered during a late-night shoot-out the two happen upon while looking for a noodle joint.
Following his convalescence the LAPD would like Scott to go out on medical disability, but Scott isn't ready to leave his career just yet. He's asked to be assigned to the K-9 division so he doesn't have to deal with the emotional attachments that come with a new partner. The K-9 trainers spot Scott as a "non-dog person" immediately. As he's about to be assigned his service dog--the most laid back of the bunch, Scott spots Maggie who is slated to be returned because the K-9 manager has deemed her unfit to serve because she's suffering from PTSD. Feeling a connection with this creature, Scott asks for two weeks with Maggie. And he's given what he asks for:
"'That poor animal is unfit for this job, and I suspect the same about him. I hope to God in His Glory I am wrong, sincerely I do, but there it is. They are suspect. That dog will help him realize he is not right for this job. Then she'll go back to that family, and he'll retire or transfer to a more suitable job, and all of us will be happier for it.'"
Do the two shattered lives of Scott and Maggie have enough pieces to patch together for an effective team? As Scott becomes more embroiled in the search to find Stephanie's killer, he'll discover if he and Maggie have what it takes to be a pack.
Robert Crais has been a crime novelist since his first book THE MONKEY'S RAINCOAT. And while the crimes of the novels are always captivating and fascinating, the realm Crais does even better is character and character relationships. In SUSPECT he delves into an area he's only alluded to before and that's the relationship between man and--in this case--dog. He doesn't treat Maggie like a human and he doesn't anthropomorphize her. Instead he portrays her as a realistic dog and creates a character as rich and dimensional as any human.
The evolution of the relationship between Maggie and Scott, while fast-forwarded for the sake of pacing, is the focus of the novel and the beauty of SUSPECT. The respect Crais exhibits in his portrayal of both man and dog is simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting. He is clearly writing with passion, and the readers get to reap the rewards.
You don't have to be an animal lover to love SUSPECT; you only need to be able to appreciate a great story. Crais' trademark humor is present as well as his knack for building suspense and keeping the momentum of the story moving swiftly. He handles the subject of PTSD with grace and respect, and his imagery will often leave readers breathless:
"His shoulder hurt. His side hurt. His leg hurt. His head hurt. His entire body, his past, and his future all hurt."
If you've never read a Robert Crais novel before, it's time to start and SUSPECT is the book. If you're an Elvis Cole/Joe Pike fan and you thought you might pass on SUSPECT because it doesn't feature them, please don't make that mistake (little secret: John Chen gets a cameo...of sorts).
It seems like as long as I can remember I've said my favorite Crais novel is L.A. REQUIEM. With the release of SUSPECT, I do believe I have a new favorite. This is my first review for 2013, and I do believe you'll be seeing it on my favorites list at the end of this year.
SUSPECT comes out in hardcover (ISBN: 9780399161483) from Putnam January 22. And for my fellow audiobook fans, Brilliance will simultaneously release the unabridged audio (ISBN: 9781455853236), narrated by MacLeod Andrews. I'm over the moon excited about that!