Saturday, January 04, 2014

SUSPECT



SUSPECT
By Robert Crais
Berkeley Books
339 pages

As a book reviewer, we get lots and lots of promotional material from various publishers every time a new book comes out.  All of this material is geared to entice us to read their books.  Of course most of it is the same homogenized spiel repeated over and over again until it becomes impossible to distinguish one book from another.  That is why the marketing rep who penned the promotional package for Robert Crais’ newest thriller is a genius.  You see, what he/she explained in the first paragraph of Berkeley Book’s flier was the fact that Crais, after decades of writing best selling novels, has never once agreed to allow any of them to be filmed.  He’s obviously not a big fan of movie adaptations.  But that is all about to change because Crais has found a film outfit he is willing to work with and the book he wants to see on screen is “Suspect.”

Well, if that isn’t an original hook, we don’t know what is.  We were immediately intrigued as to why this particular book was so unique to the author amongst all the others he’s done in the past.  We asked to receive a review copy.  It arrived in time to be our first review of 2014 and after devouring it, we’re thrilled to say the New Year at Pulp Fiction Reviews is off with winner.

Scott James is a Los Angeles police officer.  One night, he and his partner, Stephanie Anders, are caught in a brutal crossfire when they witness the murder of two successful businessmen by a gang of masked men.  Stephanie is killed and Scott terribly wounded.  Months later, after completing physical therapy and while under a psychiatrist care, Scott manages to get himself reinstated for duty.  He is haunted by Anders death and guilt ridden.  Reluctant to be teamed with another officer, Scott request reassignment to the K-9 division of the LAPD.  His logic, dogs don’t talk. 

At the dog training facility, Scott is about to be paired with one animal when he sees a beautiful female German Shepherd with scars on her backside.  Curious, he inquires as to how the animal was injured.  He learns she was a former Marine Scout Dog and while on patrol in Afghanistan, was shot twice while attempting to save her trainer who died from an I.E.D roadside explosion.  Scott learns that Maggie, the dog, also bears her own emotional scars and no one at the kennel expects her pass the rigorous tests required for her to be certified.  Scott, because of his own issues, recognizes that he and Maggie share a great deal and convinces the Sergeant Leland, the man in charge of the unit, to let him have Maggie.

From that moment on, Crais skillfully weaves his story between both the human and the dog, allowing us to see their individual fears exposed through the budding relationship each is building with the other.  Maggie lives to love and serve; it is how all dogs are wired; whereas Scott’s own reservations are daunting.  When he eventually begins to open his heart to Maggie’s purity, his life begins to have purpose again.

Eventually new clues surface as to the identity of the gang who ambushed the businessmen and Scott, through a friendly detective, is pulled back into the case.  At first he is cautiously optimistic and then as new leads begin to surface, the mystery elements of the plot take center stage.  Only now, Scott is the not alone in his quest for justice but he is faithfully assisted by a truly remarkable, brave, four-legged ally.  We haven’t encountered such a wonderful dog hero since Dean R. Koontz’s Einstein in his classic fantasy adventure, “The Watchers.”  Believe us, Maggie, is just as memorable a hero and this is one of those rare books that you will hate to see come to a close.

So, let me conclude with this one thought.  Hollywood, you’ve been given a gem of a tale to bring to the silver screen. As in all such adaptations, casting will be all important and somewhere out there, you had best find the next Rin-Tin-Tin.  Maggie deserves nothing but the best you have to give.

3 comments:

Thomas McNulty said...

Great review Ron! I loved this book. Crais is one of the few mainstream writers I'll buy in hardcover at full price, which I did with this one.

Greg Daniel said...

Hi Ron -- I am a big fan of Robert Crais, but the publicist was not quite accurate. Crais has steadfastly refused to sell his Elvis Cole/Joe Pike works to Hollywood, but HOSTAGE (2005) starring Bruce Willis was based on a thriller by Crais.

Ron Fortier said...

Hi Greg, thanks so much for the correction here, it is much appreciated. I remember HOSTAGE and liked that movie a great deal. Here's hoping, again, that Hollywood does justice to SUSPECT.