Crais, Robert. Suspect.

NY: Purnam, 2013.

This is an unusual sort of police procedural because one of the two main characters isn’t even human. Scott James is an ordinary patrol officer in the LAPD, except that he’s about to make the jump to Metro, en route to his goal of joining SWAT. He and his partner, Stephanie, are in their car off their usual beat when they stumble into a hijacking and multiple murder; Stephanie is killed and Scott takes three bullets.

But the worst part of the aftermath for him is, she thought he was deserting her when he was only trying to crawl back to their car for another weapon.

Nine months later, Scott is suffering from PTSD and is trying hard not to be forced into medical retirement. He wants only to work alone and the only way he can do that, he thinks, is by getting himself transferred to the K-9 Platoon. Scott isn’t a “dog man.” Not yet. Then he meets Maggie, a German Shepherd and ex-Military Working Dog who was shot by a sniper in Afghanistan and her handler killed. In many ways, they’re two of a kind, Scott and Maggie. Scott is determined to find the five men whose robbery caused his partner’s death. Maggie is willing to find a new Alpha to be her pack-leader.

All in all, it’s a pretty good story, though most of the narrative concentrates on the growing bond between the cop and his dog and their mutual journey back to sanity, stability, and a working relationship. Without all that, the crime part of the story on its own would actually be kind of thin. Crais doesn’t do nearly enough to develop the details of the investigation. And his control of the story’s pace is off. In fact, the growth and culmination of Scott’s investigation — not being a trained investigator, he’s sort of making it up as he goes along and trying to decide whom he can trust — and which should have filled at least the second half of the book, is mostly crammed into the last seventy-five pages. The result is that he shorts character development of both the Bad Guys and the supporting players among the Good Guys. I felt like I was being rushed and that I didn’t really know anything about these people who turned out to be the killers.


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