Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Suspect, by Robert Crais (hardcover, $27.95)

I have to admit to being a little misty-eyed at the end of this book. "Suspect" was a little sappy, but every good dog story is a little.

What happens when an LAPD officer and a Marine-trained dog both suffer from PTSD? They are joined in partnership at the LAPD K-9 unit. It's a convoluted story that brings Scott James and Maggie together to help each other heal (and heel).

Scott was shot when he and his patrol partner were inadvertent witnesses to a violent late-night attack at a quiet intersection in LA. A truck T-boned a Bentley. Another car screeched up to the accident. Five men got out and began shooting the occupants of the Bentley. Scott and his partner were collateral damage. Scott was the only one to walk away. In the nine months since the incident, none of the killers has been identified.

Maggie's Marine partner died while hunting for explosives in Afghanistan. So her superb training won't go to waste, she is eventually adopted by the K-9 unit. Against his better judgment, the captain assigns Maggie to Scott, who has been foisted on his department. No one quite knows what to do with the emotionally and physically disabled hero who refuses to retire quietly. Maggie startles at loud noises and is on the verge of washing out of the service herself.

While Scott is bonding and training with Maggie, the new detective assigned to his case contacts him and allows Scott to read his file materials. Scott finds an evidence bag that has been misfiled. Even though the artifact in the bag has been declared unimportant to the case, luck and instinct makes Scott take a second look at it. From that stepping stone, Scott surges forward to find new evidence of who the shooters were. Using Maggie's extraordinary skills and olfactory talents, and the recent acquaintance of detective Joyce Cowly, Scott finds that the answers are more complicated and closer to home than he had imagined.

We've come to know and appreciate the quirky, independent-minded, and smart-alecky Elvis Cole, Crais' usual protagonist, that Scott James is rather flat by comparison. The storytelling, however, is Crais' usual blend of good pacing and interesting details, with a tear-jerker story of man's best friend thrown in.

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