Read by MacLeod Andrews
Length: 8 Hrs 30 Min
Quick Thoughts: The beginning of Suspect left me in shock, slack jawed and breathless, and the novel relentless pace just continued steal my breath to the point of asphyxia. Its fast paced action and well conceived plot makes this more than just another dog book and its characters are achingly real. Maggie is my favorite dog literary character since Einstein in Watchers. Yet, even without the awesome dog, Suspect is a great crime thriller that stands up to the best in the business.
There is a very good reason that I avoid dog books, and it’s not because I don’t like dogs. In fact, it’s the exact opposite, I love dogs. There are furry bundles of awesomeness, and the fact that we share our homes and lives with them is one of the things that proves that humanity has good in it. Most of the best memories of my childhood involve a dog in some way. Sadly, some of my worst memories also involve dogs. I am not a person who cries easily. I can read the most gut wrenching tragedies, and manage to keep my sociopathic grin. Yet, have a dog come down with a bad case of fleas and I’m a blubbering imbecile, wiping snot out of my beard. It’s ridiculous. Kill off as main character, and I’m fine. Kill off your dog, or Billybumbler or Cat that works at a Bookstore and I will be stuck weeping on my couch, wrapped in a Snuggie eating Haagen-Dazs like a character from a clichéd riddled Lifetime movie. This blubbering mass of human jelly is not an image that I want to project out into the world, scaring off potential dates, and small children. Now, that’s not to say I don’t enjoy dogs in fiction. I love when Jonathan Maberry added Ghost to his Joe Ledger series but if he ends up killing off Ghost the way he has some of his other characters he‘ll have some blubbering 30 something screaming “WHY!!!” at him outside his favorite Starbucks. So, back to the topic at hand, one thing I love about Januarys is that you know a Robert Crais novel is at hand. I was very excited about Suspect. I was very excited when I learned that Suspect was going to be narrated by MacLeod Andrews. Most importantly, when discovering it was about a dog, I attempted to contract the flu as cover for the read nose and blood shot eyes if anything should happen to our canine hero.
In Suspect, Robert Crais starts off with a punch to the gut, and then kicks you in the balls when you are down. In a good way. Suspect stars off with two tragic events, the death of a soldier in Afghanistan, and the slaughter of a cop in the streets of Los Angeles both leaving the surviving partners of the dead riddled with guilt. Scott James is an LA policeman on the fast track, when a brutal attack leaves his partner Stephanie dead, and him fighting for his life, sanity and job. Transferred to the K9 Unit, despite never having had a dog, Scott meets Maggie, a German Sheppard recovering from her own loss. Together, they will investigate the crime that lead to Scott’s partner’s death, and develop a bond neither of them expected. It all sounds sort of TV movie of the weekish, but it’s really not. Crais is one of the best Thriller writers out there, and his crisp style gets us right into the minds of these characters. This isn’t some cardboard cutter exploration of PSTD with the plucky dog helping the tragically victimized cop to cope. It’s a fast paced crime thriller that explores issues of guilt, loss and adapting to tragedy is a real way. Crais never let’s us get comfortable in the misery of the characters, but pushes them to confront their greatest fears. I found the look into Maggie’s brain and exploration of her though patters added a unique grounding force to the narrative. Crais uses the dog’s perception as a mirror to Scott’s showing how a bond can form in a realist manner. As a sucker for dogs, I was pleased that Crais didn’t go through the movie montage version of bonding, but tackled the reluctance and ignorance of Jame’s head on. The plot itself was well orchestrated and smart, what you would expect from Crais. While I missed some of the humor that Crais infuses his Elvis Cole novels with, Suspect is full of enough heart to make up for it. The beginning of Suspect left me in shock, slack jawed and breathless, and the novel relentless pace just continued steal my breath to the point of asphyxia. Its fast paced action and well conceived plot makes this more than just another dog book and its characters are achingly real. Maggie is my favorite dog literary character since Einstein in Watchers. Yet, even without the awesome dog, Suspect is a great crime thriller that stands up to the best in the business.
Macleod Andrews was an inspired choice to read Suspect. His soft, yet sometimes gravelly voice allowed him to balance between the despondent Scott James reflections on life, and his high pitch doggy speak. Andrews captured just the right tone of adorable doggy talk that occasionally I found my tail a bit waggly, yet it never came off corny. He didn’t try to make scenes from Maggie’s perspective Cartoon doggy, but just delivered them in a soft measured way that fit the personality, more than the sound, of the dog. I think Andrews is one of the best narrators at truly inhabiting a character. This usually pays off best in first person tales, but proves to be just as affective in multiple character POVs. I will challenge anyone out there to listen to the first hour of this audiobook, and not be totally drawn in. Crais’ writing is wonderful, and the dual openings scenes are devastating, and Andrew’s delivery and pacing perfectly translates that to the reader. Fans of realistic as opposed to melodramatic Animal Tales, as well as fans of great thrillers and crime fiction should be equally pleased with Suspect.
Note: Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with this title for review.