Monday, August 25, 2008

Dog Mysteries For The Fun At Heart

If you like mystery and farce, and aren't afraid to swallow an anthropomorphized Labrador, you will love J.F. Englert's new Bull Moose Dog Run series, starting with "Dog About Town" and "A Dog Among Diplomats". The synopsis on the back of the book reads more or less like this: Harry is a man mourning the loss of his beloved girlfriend, Imogene, who disappeared one night while running an errand. He's also the owner of a plump, poetry-loving Lab, Randolph. Like most Manhatten dogs, Randolph spends his days sifting through a world of scents, his owner's neuroses, and an overcrowded doggy run at the American Museum of Natural History. But now Harry has drifted into a world of would-be occultists. Which might not be so bad if one of them wasn't also a murderer.

Randolph is sentient canine who taught himself to read as a puppy on the newspapers his mistress put down for potty training. He is inspired by great classics, especially the work of Dante, and excuses the general perception that humans have of dogs as unintelliegent because, in his words " Most dogs certainly do not behave in ways that would suggest sentience (though most humans do not either as is apparent from the hastiest of glances at the newspapers)." Randolph is challenged to not only protect his hapless owner from harm, but to steer Harry toward clues that will lead to the killer's identity. He is also trying to cipher a code that Imogene left in her journal, just before she disappeared.

The book is a fast, enjoyable read. Randolph is a likable character. His owner, Harry evokes sympathy, but I found myself getting annoyed with his lack of attention to Randolph. My dog- mother self wanted to scream when Harry fed the Lab whatever came home in a take-out package or was pulled from the "deeply troubled refrigerator." But the literature lover in me, recognized that Harry was eating the same junk food he fed the dog and this description only served to emphasize the emotional collapse Harry had suffered when he lost Imogene. My husband actually laughed at me when I expressed my discomfort with the inappropriate feeding. He remembers his bachelor ways and had no problem with Randolph and Harry's diet.

In "A Dog Among Diplomats", we find Randolph being loaned to a diplomat from Near Upper Pilasia, who is in need of a therapy dog to help calm his anxieties. The diplomat has taken up temporary residence at a boarding house near the United Nations. Several murders occur at the boarding house and Imogene, Randolph and Harry's true love, is implicated. Which suggests that Imogene is still alive, but mysteriously hidden. Randolph must prove that his mistress is innocent and find the true killer, and do so in the midst of political intrique. Very heady stuff for a Lab.

Randolph has his own quirky blog at JL Englert generously offers his books to dog shelters for fundraising purposes. To learn more, contact adogabouttown.