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by Jeffrey Cohen
Bancroft Press, November 2005
280 pages
ISBN: 1890862436

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I picked up AS DOG IS MY WITNESS with a certain amount of trepidation. A writer with an issue to explore -- autism -- and a book populated by both children and animals would usually make me cautious. But I can report that the book is an absolute delight. Jeffrey Cohen's sparky series set in New Jersey is new to me and now I want to read the rest.

Aaron Tucker is a journalist and would-be screenwriter. He and his wife Abby live in a chaotic house with their two kids Ethan and Leah. Aaron's still trying to get a movie script accepted, so in the meantime is game for any journalistic assignment that comes his way.

Aaron appears to have a track record of clearing up mysteries -- and this is where I, as someone who never reads cosies, tend to have a problem with the hoops writers have to jump through to get their leading characters involved in an investigation.

In this case he's asked by Lori Shery, the president of an Asperger Syndrome support network, to help clear 22-year-old Justin Fowler of murder. Justin has Asperger's -- and just happens to have admitted to killing Michael Huston, who appears to have been the perfect husband. And Aaron manages to interest a newspaper editor in the story.

Naturally there's a collection of tame police officers who are only too willing to talk to Aaron and to smooth his path to those involved in the case. Oh yes, and teenage son Ethan, who has Asperger's, helps solve the mystery.

OK, minor moan over. Aside from the gymnastics peculiar to cosies, AS DOG IS MY WITNESS kept me engrossed and laughing until the end. Cohen can do you prose that crackles off the page and wisecracks by the lorryload, but knows when to pull back from the edge of facetiousness.

The book contains what those Eng Lit scholars call intertextual references to the genre -- in plain English, Aaron refers to that other New Jersey hero Myron Bolitar, and to Lee Childs' tough guy leading character Jack Reacher. In fact, my favourite line of the whole book was when Aaron, confronted by the three bruisers Big, Bigger and Biggest, gets into a car with them. "I got in. What did you think I was going to do? If I were Jack Reacher, the ex-military cop/one-man wrecking crew, I probably would have shot each of them twelve or thirteen times, and then had sex with a female police officer. Alas, Jack was elsewhere that day."

Even better, Cohen's characters are living, breathing, witty and infuriating. I found myself snarling at the book when Aaron's ghastly brother-in-law and his family come to stay, muttering under my breath at Abby's tendency to side with her brother, and watching my hands make tightening round throat gestures as cousin Dylan makes Ethan's life a misery.

AS DOG IS MY WITNESS is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. I'm off to beg, steal or borrow the previous two.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, November 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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