One of the worst things about the way this Spring got away from me is that I've been unable to get to this book until now—from the synopsis, this was so far up my alley that it might as well have been titled The Finders: Meet HC's New Favorite Series. But the important this is that I got to it now, and that subtitle would've been pretty much correct. I can't imagine there'll be a new series this year that'll top this for me.
I've kind of tipped my hand there, haven't I? It's a good thing I don't pretend to write suspense, eh? Still, having established what I think about it—what about you—is this something you should read? Probably, yeah.
It's called the "Mace Reid K-9 Investigations" series, and the novel pretty much starts with the K-9 part, so I will, too. We meet a golden retriever puppy on one of the worst days imaginable for a young dog (or person). She's soon adopted by Mason Reid (call him Mace) a dog trainer who has a few Human Remains Detection dogs, in need of one more. This pup takes to HRD in a way that surprises Mace, she's more than a natural. I absolutely adore this dog. Mace does, too. He's in a pretty bad place when he meets this girl, and she's just what he needs to get out of it.
The other members of this pack would probably be as endearing if we'd got enough time with them—I'm going to leave their names out because Mace's names are so fun that you'd best read them (and the reasoning behind them) for yourself, I don't want to take that from you. There's a German Shepherd (Mace's descriptions of him are wonderful) and two trouble-making Collies.
There is a section where Mace describes the process that the dog goes through when scenting—probably not as technically correct as what Cat Warren gave in her book (adult or young reader's version*)—but as gripping (if not more so) and entertaining—and it really gives you an idea what's going on (as best as we can understand) during that process. Burton could've given us two or three more passages along those lines in this book and I wouldn't have complained at all.
* Either or both of which I recommend to anyone interested in this novel.
So, yeah, Mace is our narrator, he's got a great voice. You pretty much feel like he's a close friend telling you a story right away, and sitting around watching his dogs play while drinking cheap beer and eating pizza (preferably non-Hawaiian) sounds like a great way to spend an evening. He's funny, self-deprecating, smart, and driven (especially when the health and well-being of one of his "kids" is on the line). If I wasn't talking about an eARC waiting final revisions, this post would be littered with quotations--he is oh so quotable. His affection for his dogs and dogs in general, is right up there with Bernie Little, Andy Carpenter and anyone gutsy enough to try to feed and care for Clifford the Big Red Dog. Even if the plot was blah and the writing uninteresting, I'd have enjoyed meeting Mace (thankfully, that's not the case).
There are four cops in this book that Mace interacts heavily with—an unusual number, to be sure. Two are uniformed officers and two are detectives. Mace's relationship with each varies a little bit, but they're the kind of cops you want to believe fill our police forces. I don't know if all four of them will return in future volumes—but I'd be happy to see any or all of them again. I'll hold off on further discussion of them for the future when we get to know them a little bit more (assuming that's the case).
After Mace and his retriever find the remains of a serial killer's latest victim, something goes very wrong. This compels him to take a more active role in the hunt for the killer. Between his dogs, desperation, and a healthy portion of beginner's luck, he has remarkable success at that. Which ends up putting a target on his back—creating a need for more luck, his dogs, some more desperation, and the help of his police acquaintances/friends.
The plot moves pretty quickly—there's a time or two that your credulity might get stretched a bit further than you'd like. But if you roll with it, Burton'll reward you. The book moves quickly—even more than I realized a few times. Which isn't to say that anything feels rushed, it doesn't, you're on a roller coaster that starts quickly and doesn't let up. There were a couple of reveals that I didn't see coming, some plot twists I wouldn't have expected—in retrospect, I felt I probably should have seen it all, if I wanted to do something silly like stop reading the book to analyze and predict what's coming rather than just buckle in and read it.
So here's the thing about serial killers in fiction—I'm pretty much over them. I think I've been over-exposed to them, and by and large, I don't react positively to them. That's not to say I can't enjoy a Serial Killer novel if the plot is well done, the other characters are well executed, and so on—but I'm almost always apathetic about the killer himself/herself anymore. But this one? Initially, it seemed like this was going to be one of those books that I liked despite the killer. However, by a little after the mid-way point, the killer had won me over and had got me interested. I can't explain why without ruining the whole thing for you, so I won't. But color this jaded reader interested.
It's possible that I'm rating this a little higher than it deserves. If I was being entirely objective, I'd probably take off a half or maybe a full star from my rating. But this isn't an objective piece, or an objective rating—this is about how much I enjoyed this, how it appealed to me, entertained me and made me want to read on. For that, it scored really high for me.
A strong and fun central character, a collection of interesting police officers, a compelling serial killer, a well-paced plot, and four wonderful dogs. I can't think of anything else this book could deliver for me. I when I wasn't on the edge of my seat, flipping the pages as quickly as I could, I was reading as slowly as possible so I could relish the scenes with Mace and his dogs doing their thing. Now that Burton has established Mace's world and characters, I can't wait to see him explore it some and build on this really strong foundation.
Highly recommended. I won't pretend to assure you that you'll enjoy it as much as me, but I can't imagine anyone not liking this book.
Disclaimer: I received this eARC from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley in exchange for this post—thanks to both for this. As always, my opinions remain my own.