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by J.F. Englert
Dell, April 2008
336 pages
ISBN: 0440243645

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Randolph is a Labrador and dog of deep intelligence. He has been teaching himself to read since he was a puppy being trained on the best written newspaper in America - the NEW YORK TIMES.

After his mistress, Imogen, left him and her boyfriend Harry, Randolph and Harry have been having a hard time of it trying to understand why she left so suddenly.

But when Harry and Randolph are called to a murder scene by their friend, a homicide detective, and are informed that Imogen is the prime suspect in that murder, Randolph can tell that Imogen isn't guilty. He knows it from the lack of her smell around the body, a smell that his powerful canine nose would have picked up easily. He understands that he has the unique talents to find out what happened at the crime scene and that he must try to get undercover in order to solve the murder and free Imogen from the suspicion of being guilty of the crime.

Since the detective knows all about Imogen and her connection to Harry and Randolph, he helps Harry get in contact with a man who lives in the building where Imogen was supposed to have done the murder. It's a boarding house where many people who work in the nearby United Nations have rooms. Harry is introduced to a man who needs a therapy dog to help him keep his nerves calm and Harry soon has Randolph inside the house as the helper dog. That way Harry thinks he will be able to get into the building easily and begin to watch the other people there, one of whom might indeed be the real murderer.

But what really happens is that Randolph is securely on the inside track, able to listen to the people talking around him and investigate anything that might lead him to the killer. Happily Randolph is able to use any computer to get email messages to Harry. Taking the name of Holmes and a secret identity of a spirit who is interested in the case and who can give Harry solid information, Randolph goes undercover inside the rooming house. He knows that once on the inside, he will be able to find the real murderer and to clear his beloved Imogen's name, thereby permitting her to inherit a fortune left to her by her rather strange relatives.

I am not a reader who likes mysteries where animals are used as fill-ins for people. I think that most stories like that are far too cute and ask the readers to suspend belief far too much. But this book is not open to those objections in any way. Here the author does his best to make Randolph as realistic an animal as he can. A DOG AMONG DIPLOMATS does a first rate job of convincing readers that Randolph is a real dog, but a highly unusual and intelligent one. Randolph suffers through his lower animal urges and makes the readers see his view of the world through his eyes and sensibilities. We understand how Randolph feels trapped in a body that can't talk, doesn't have useful hands, and he can't even control his environment enough to let him be in charge of his own personal "business."

I have never read a book that better describes the differences between man and his close friend the dog, and I enjoyed this book all the more because of the masterful way that Randolph presents himself and his mystery solving gifts to the readers.

The murder mystery itself is well thought out. There are no cheap turns, no silly clues and the background and the solution to this killing reads as a first class murder mystery. It's well written and well thought out. The few sections where Randolph gets into a dangerous situation actually made me cringe and I suffered through every moment until Randolph was rescued. I can recall very few, if any other books that affected me that much.

I could not stop reading A DOG AMONG DIPLOMATS and hated every time I had to set it down. The idea of a dog being the one who solves the crime made good sense by the time I finished this book and I completely enjoyed reading it. Happily another volume is promised to the readers on the final page and so I'm looking forward to reading the next in the series.

Reviewed by A.L. Katz, September 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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