The newest book in the Roger and Suzanne series, The Deadly Dog Show, is getting excellent reviews (see a couple of previous posts below, July 26th and August 1st) and four of the more recent ones at the end of this entry. It’s also selling well, apparently both to dog lovers and to mystery fans. As indicated in the book’s foreword and this blog, the canine heroine of the novel, Juliet, is very much modeled after our middle dog, Jolie. This post explores the real-life origins of a few specific scenes in the novel and takes you "behind the scenes" to illustrate the integration of reality and fiction in my creative process.
As a narrator, Roger leans heavily on description, with much of the dialogue following that formula for consistency, and some of his wry observations are true gems. In particular, don't miss the descriptions of the different board members of the AKC, which are very clever with several laugh-out-loud bits.
Mystery lovers will appreciate the homage paid to Robert B. Parker's Spenser series, with Bowman talking to a woman who wants to hire him but can't give specifics a la the opening of many Spenser novels, and the Pearl the Wonder Dog breed selected to be the canine star of the book.
Dog lovers, especially those who know anything about show dogs, and those who like their mysteries more cerebral than noir--although be ready for a surprising bit of raw action towards the end--will enjoy this book.”
Roger's client in this case is the leadership of the New York-based American Kennel Club (AKC), who as sponsors of competitive dog shows, seek his help looking into vague, but potentially scandalous, concerns over judging irregularities on the West Coast dog show circuit. A fat retainer plus other generous perks offered by the deep-pocketed corporate client persuade Roger to take the case, which initially seemed too easy at best, or a bit fishy at worst. As subsequent events bear out, there was more to the case than Roger's clients let on.
The novel represents an enjoyable evolution in the Roger and Suzanne murder mystery series. As fun and interesting as the earlier South American story lines were, I found the shift to the California, U.S. Southwest and New York settings to be no less interesting and entertaining. Just as Last drew on his personal knowledge of South American culture and locations in his earlier books, he uses his extensive knowledge of the competitive dog show world to provide a detailed and credible new setting for his latest mystery. And his cast of characters continues to expand and develop, adding interest to his largely narrative story-telling. Unlike the previous books I read in the series, Last takes more time to set up his story for the action to follow. Readers not familiar with the world of dog breeding, training and competition will appreciate the time Last takes to provide context and background. Once the first murder is uncovered, events move quickly with both action and suspense.”