Vicious Dogs: more bark than bite

ViciousDogsIn the best tradition of the two-time-loser gumshoe detective, private eye Derek Lasker is one step away from sleeping on the streets. He’s run out of cash. He hasn’t had a client in months. He’s no clue where his next low-fat latte might be coming from and he’s reached a crisis of personal hygiene due to a lack of laundry detergent.

This, as you might’ve guessed, is not your traditional noir. Any investigation which centres around the mysterious decapitation of a pet cat isn’t exactly going to be black-as-night. Instead ‘Vicious Dogs’ is a 21st century, Canadian interpretation of the genre. Hence when Lasker really hits rock bottom, he does it in an ineffably pleasant and considerate manner.

Lasker himself is an intriguing protagonist who kinda reminds me of a male version of Kinsey Millhone. He’s a nice guy who played sports in high school, quotes literary references, respects women and is genuinely surprised when his presence at a crime scene makes him an obvious suspect. He’s maybe a little bit too nice to be truly engaging: I typically prefer my protagonists to have more edge about them and at least the suggestion of a ruthless streak. This type of pithy grit is obvious in two of the excellent supporting characters – the investigating police detective and a woman officer – but Lasker himself comes over as a wee bit whiny…

So don’t expect anything as hard-bitten as James Ellroy, Don Winslow or James Crumley, but do settle down for an entertaining mystery with unpredictable twists, some impressively menacing felons and a playful delivery. It’s a definite change of pace from the typical point-blank brutality you often find in hardboiled crime fiction. Author Henry Brock pays skilful homage to the golden age of the gumshoe but avoids the pitfall of the pastiche. ‘Vicious Dogs’ is a romp – one with a big-hearted moral core which gives a big round of applause to life’s good guys.

7/10
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Vicious Dogs by Henry Brock is available as an ebook or paperback

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