“Dogs do what they do to please us or save us. They don’t have anything else. We owe them no less.”
Suspect, by Robert Crais
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, January 2013
312 pages (hardcover)
LAPD cop Scott James is not doing so well. Eight months ago, a shocking nighttime assault by unidentified men killed his partner Stephanie, nearly killed him, and left him enraged, ashamed, and ready to explode. He is unfit for duty – until he meets his new partner.
Maggie is not doing so well, either. A German shepherd who survived three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan sniffing explosives before losing her handler to an IED, her PTSD is as bad as Scott’s.
They are each other’s last chance. Shunned and shunted to the side, they set out to investigate the one case that no one wants them to touch: the identity of the men who murdered Stephanie. What they begin to find is nothing like what Scott has been told, and the journey will take them both through the darkest moments of their own personal hells. Whether they will make it out again, no one can say.
A couple years ago, James Rollins – a former veterinarian and one of my favorite authors – created a great dog and handler duo in Tucker and Kane. When I heard Robert Crais’s latest book featured a similar pair, I was eager to see his take. Luckily for me, Suspect turned out to be one of the first round books in my library’s Tournament of Books, and while I ultimately went with John Grisham’s Sycamore Row as the winner of the round, it wasn’t an easy decision.
Right off the bat, we’re introduced to Maggie. I don’t imagine that it’s easy to write an animal’s point of view without it coming off as contrived, but Crais pulls it off. Maggie feels every bit as real a character as any of the humans, and with just as much personality.
I also thought he did a good job drawing secondary characters that aren’t just clichés or plot points. This is something I noticed in the one other novel of his I’ve read, and part of the reason I wanted to read more of his work. But Scott and Maggie and their developing relationship were definitely the highlight of this novel.
And ultimately, that was its downfall. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a great read… but the mystery itself was completely overshadowed. From a character development standpoint, it was important for Scott to learn the truth about what happened. But from a reader standpoint, it could have been replaced with just about any other story and it wouldn’t have made a difference. Scott and Maggie coming together was what made the book.
Does Suspect sound like something you’d pick up? Have you read any books featuring an animal as a main character?