Written by Mike Resnick –– Ex-cop Eli Paxton is an honest to goodness hero. Fat lot of good it’s done him though. It did get him into the pages of Newsweek and even a biography that he never even saw on the bookshelf. Unfortunately, as a rookie Chicago cop, fresh out of the army, he got involved with a drug dealer whose client list included not only some US representatives, but also quite a few state senators. You can probably guess how this turned out, and testifying against these people got him booted from the force.
After a series of jobs didn’t quite pan out, Eli finally found himself in Cincinnati, and set up shop as a PI. Following cheating spouses pays the bills, but things begin to look up when a man, Hubert Lantz, a show dog handler, comes into his office in the hopes that Eli can help him find a prize-winning dog.
This is not just any show dog, however. Baroness von Tannelwald has just won Best in Show at Westminster. When her owner asked Lantz to ship her home, he complied. The problem is, the kennel girl that was supposed to have her shipped hasn’t turned up, and neither has the dog. The girl actually does soon turn up… when her car is dredged out of a river, with her body in it along with a locked crate, but no dog.
After satisfying himself that the dog’s owner isn’t a suspect, an attempt is made on Eli’s life. It seems that nearly everyone associated with the hound is dropping dead in accidents. Too many them look very suspicious to our detective, and he enlists the help of a couple of his police contacts. Eli finds out that the dog did, indeed, make it onto a plane, but what happened between boarding the plane and its arrival? The clues take Eli from the stifling heat of Arizona as far as Mexico, and in the process, something becomes very clear: a missing dog is the least of his problems. Someone wants Eli off the case – enough to kill him – and they manage to hurt him pretty badly at one point. Not only that, but the body count is steadily rising, and as things get worse, Eli finds it harder and harder to get help from his contacts.
The author is known for his science fiction and fantasy writing, which is usually enjoyable, but this is a very different book. Paxton is a very capable-yet every-man- sleuth. He’s quick to jump on the clues, but doesn’t throw himself in unnecessary danger and carefully considers his prospects before moving on to the next inquiry. His ex-cop status certainly doesn’t hurt his ability to protect himself and lends credence to his abilities.
I enjoyed this story, as it’s set in the early 90s, before cell phones were ubiquitous, which makes it much more of a challenge for our hero to get himself out of a fix. I thought I knew where this was going-more than once, and Resnick foiled me at every turn. In fact, he turns what starts out as a very simple case into something where our hero is stumbling into a pretty nasty, extremely diabolical scheme. This is a rather unusual, and very entertaining mystery, and should not be missed. The next installment, The Trojan Colt, is set to drop on 4 July in the US, and 11 June in the UK.
If you’re using an iPad to read crime fiction, grab Dog in the Manger at £3.49 as an iBook. For Kindle it’s £9.26.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars