Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Review: A Dog About Town by J.F. Englert

Thanks to Peter Rozovsky at DETECTIVES BEYOND BORDERS for recommending this book a while back when I mentioned how much I like dog-central mysteries.

Author J.F. Englert's first book in the Bull Moose Dog Run mysteries, A DOG ABOUT TOWN, introduces us to Randolph, a very unique (far as we know) Labrador Retriever who lives in a cramped but cozy NYC apartment with his hapless owner, Harry.

Harry is a tall, good looking sort, not overly intelligent but devoted to Randolph. He's an erstwhile artist, a painter currently NOT painting due to his depth of sadness at the loss of his girlfriend Imogene who has been missing, presumed dead, for a year. (She went out for bread one day and never returned.)

Randolph and Harry stumble into a mystery when, during a seance which Harry attended, a famous writer ignominiously drops dead in the bathroom. Harry had received a mysterious invitation to attend said seance and, having nothing better to do, showed up. Later he returns to the same apartment with Ivan, a 'ghost hunting' pal, to 'measure' any 'ghostly presence' the murder victim might have left behind. Since Imogene's disappearance, Harry has been caught up in any scheme which might, somehow, put him in touch with her. He simply cannot believe she disappeared from his life without a word. Neither can Randolph, but he doesn't believe in ghosts. Actually, Randolph is a bit of an insufferable snob. His only nod to sentimentality coming when he thinks about Imogene, whom he obviously adored.

The murder victim was patrician author and rich man about town, Lyell Overton Minskoff-Hardy, an ambitious, not very well liked bon-vivant. Though Harry, seems unduly overcome with the grim news as he returns home to the apartment:

"A great man died tonight, Randolph," he [Harry] pronounced.

I could think of several great men who were dead that night. Dante Alighieri, Florentine poet, first among them; Sir Winston Churchill, a close second, but I did not so much as growl a qualifier...

Randolph, as you can see, is not without irony. A few paragraphs later, Randolph explains his point of view: All such questions of the heart and the character are my concern because the detective is the last true humanist, standing at that lonely intersection where observation and reason meet emotion and intuition revealing the secrets that measure our fragile, inconstant, but extraordinary beings. How ironic, then, that I am not even human.

Yes, that is correct. I am not human.

You see, I am a dog - not a scoundrel, a cad, a rascal - no, not a dog in that sense, but an actual dog, Canis familiaris.....I am also sentient. I can remember.....Like the reader, I compare the past and the present. I strategize and calculate. This is not a possibility entertained by the Merriam-Webster definition. [for Labrador Retriever]

Yes, Randolph thinks of himself as a detective. Harry the human owner is just along for the ride. Later, how Randolph who, despite his talent for logistics, is unable to talk, manages to convey clues to his hapless owner is hilarious. (Hint: Alpha-Bits cereal.)

When another couple of murders take place, one involving death by out-sized Audubon book, it is obvious to Randolph (who has a nose for this sort of thing) that some sort of psychopath is at work. But how to convey this to Harry is problematic. You see, Randolph does not want Harry to know that he, Randolph, is a sentient being - he (probably rightly) foresees too many problems should Harry suspect the truth.

How the pudgy Randolph keeps his 'super-dog' identity a secret from Harry, solves the crimes AND survives doggy yoga is great fun to read about. I will definitely be reading more in this series.


  1. Sounds hilarious. I have to get this book.

    Do you read David Rosenfelt's mysteries about Andy Carpenter, a defense attorney who loves dogs. He has a dog, Tara, a Golden Retriever. She doesn't talk. But the character helps set up a dog rescue. Several books are about Carpenter helping to save dogs and taking care of dog witnesses.
    "Dog Tags," the last one is lots of fun.

  2. Kathy: I've been meaning to catch up with David Rosenfelt's books since I read the first one years ago. One of these days it'll happen.

    Another series which is told from the dog's point of view is Spencer Quinn's ultra delightful Chet and Bernie books. The first one is titled: DOG ON IT. :)

  3. I know about "Dog On It," have heard about it, but didn't want a book from a dog's point of view, until you posted about this series, the dog investigator.

    I just sent this one on to a friend, who does like Rosenfelt's books.

    Rosenfelt has a wonderful website, where he posts a short video showing his house, where he and his spouse keep rescued elderly and sick dogs. (They've rescued thousands, and found them homes.) It's a madhouse there, but lovely dogs.

  4. Oh Kathy, you have to read DOG ON IT. It is such a wonderful book. It is a very touching book because the dog, Chet, though he tells the story, remains very mcuh a dog in thought and behavior. There's no 'cutesy-pie' stuff. It's an unique achievement in my book.

    Yes, I will check out David Rosenfelt's website, thanks! I've heard about his rescue operation. He sounds like a fine man.


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