"Suspect," the latest crime novel by best-selling author Robert Crais (Putnam, $27.95), showcases two new strong characters--and one of them is a dog.
This is something different for Crais, who has written 13 books starring private investigator Elvis Cole and many other highly entertaining tales.
This book introduces Scott James, a Los Angeles cop whose life is dramatically changed when he's severely wounded during a nighttime assault.
His partner Stephanie is killed; although healing, James still has nightmares and flashbacks nine months later.
Maggie, an 85-pound German shepherd, also isn't doing very well. She served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan sniffing explosives. She was badly wounded and a sniper killed her Marine handler.
James doesn't want to take medical retirement; the dog is severely depressed. Both are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder but are still among the walking wounded.
Even though he knows nothing about dogs, James opts for the K9 unit. Soon the pair become an unlikely team--both are "suspect" for fitting in to the unit.
James is determined to track down Stephanie's killer; although he's not a homicide cop, he starts looking into the unsolved case.
He's still seeing a psychiatrist regularly, hoping his flashbacks might reveal clues to the identity of the men responsible.
Intensifying his search, James examines police reports and goes back to the crime scene, discovering new leads and useful information.
The relationship between James and Maggie grows stronger as they slowly begin to adapt to each other; the training continues for both.
James gets help from some others in the department, but there are unexpected results that lead to deadly consequences.
Crais, who attended Michigan State University's Clarion Fantasy and Science Fiction Writer's Workshop, has written a powerful tale that works well on different levels.
Although there's little of Crais's usual dark humor, it's easy to get emotionally involved in this fast-paced crime novel. Crais smoothly alters viewpoints, deftly showing the mindset of the dog from the animal's perspective.
Hollywood film producers have made movies of a number of Crais' books; this novel is prime entertainment material.
This is definitely a book that's not to be missed. It's a fast, enjoyable read that's a top-notch effort by one of America's best crime writers.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop,
has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly since 1987.
This review was originally published by the
Lansing State Journal on February 10, 2013.