A Dog About Town – J. F. Englert

Randolph We were pleased last year – I’ll come back to why it’s “we” later – when Randolph emailed us, asking if we’d like a copy of his first novel, A Dog About Town, as scribed by his creator: a New Yorker with Welsh connections, one Mr J. F. Englert.  It’s a mystery novel told through the eyes of Randolph the black Labrador Retriever, who just happens to be sentient.

Now, for the “we” element.  As it’s Randolph’s story, I’ll hand you over to Oscar, my gorgeous seal point Siamese cat to tell you what we thought about it…

Christmas is fast approaching in New York when we meet Randolph, a rather chubby black Labrador Retriever and his master Harry.  They are both getting over the loss of Imogen, Harry’s partner and Randolph’s mistress, who simply vanished when she left to buy some bread.  Randolph is quite remarkable for his species in that he is sentient and of above average intelligence (quite like me in fact).  Unlike Harry, Randolph has a rational approach to Imogen’s loss, whereas Harry has developed an interest in the supernatural and become involved in séances, hoping to find some closure.  Randolph simply groans inwardly at his desperation here, knowing this stuff is pure twaddle, truth be told, especially when it’s in the hands of Harry and his cohort Ivan Manners as they go ghosthunting in New York State.

In a nutshell (because she at the keyboard says I must do it like this, for consistency):   Lyell Overton Minskoff-Hardy, celebrated literary bod (to some) dies in suspicious circumstances in the loo of a New York apartment where

a séance is being held (and with his fly well open, poor man).  Randolph, who is an avid reader, with the investigative skills of Holmes and Watson combined, as well as having a style that encapsulates both of them, discovers a link between Overton’s death and Imogen’s disappearance.  Tension abounds as Randolph tries to protect his master, knowing the risks of disclosing to his master that he is indeed sentient – Randolph does not want to become a celebrity dog, with a piece of himself available for all to ferociously graze upon.  No one in their circle, including those who elbow in – and Harry is an attractive man who garners attention, even when he does not seek it – is beyond suspicion.  This even applies to Harry’s friend and wealthy benefactor.  What a mess!  What is the truth?  Was Overton actually murdered?  And what’s happened to Imogen?

Well, my paws kept turning the pages to find out the answers.

Randolph feels like he could be anyone’s true friend, including a feline’s.  He’s up there with the best of them.  He can even communicate with the Guatemalan tree sloth.  The mystery is a maze that could rival the one at Hampton Court.  The ending had a big surprise that leads nicely to the next novel in the series A Dog Among Diplomats, which is due to be published very soon on 29 April in the US, by Dell.

This reader certainly wants to read more, as well as she at the keyboard.  Englert brings some wonderful humour to this novel along with characters with whom you enjoy spending time.  And he keeps you in suspense until the end.  We definitely want to read A Dog Among Diplomats and are looking forward to it.

One final word though, as your four legged friend and fan, dear, dear Randolph.  To have longevity in your circumstances, you have to have a certain level of fitness.  Harry doesn’t help you as he feeds you and shares with you the spills of the New York take-out.  So many comment on your weight that he sometimes feels guilty and then reduces your intake, which is not good either.  You have to stabilise your blood sugar, Randolph!  It’s time to make sure that you make the most of your Christmas present from Jackson and get some decent swimming done.  (Not that I’d like it.  I hate water.  But you dogs love it, don’t you?)

Mr Englert was very kind in sending us three copies, which she at the keyboard was going to give away via here.  But in the meantime, the lady at my new vet’s surgery has had one (she loved it) and the second has been promised to Karen at Eurocrime (when she at the keyboard can find it).  Yes, there are a lot of books at chez crimefic and not enough shelves yet, but she is working on it.