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by Donna Moore
Busted Flush, August 2010
250 pages
ISBN: 1935415247

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The West End Park Museum in Glasgow, in the person of Campbell Findlay, chief curator of the museum's current show of glittering international golden tat, is ecstatic that an American collector has agreed to include his jewel-encrusted Shih Tzu figures, stolen years ago from a Tibetan monastery. The curator, the museum, and the collector all should have known better than to send the pooches off to Glasgow. Worth at least 15 million, they are the target of a good cross-section of the city's population, not to speak of a number of visitors, all of whom have their own plans for them.

There are Letty and Dora, for example, ex-tarts and effective con-women, who plan to snatch the dogs as the foundation for a comfortable retirement. They do have to be on their guard against the "chauffeur" they've employed, another con artist though a rather thick one, and of course, the murderous thug who is pursuing them from Australia, where they managed to bilk him of a sizable sum, hurting both his pocketbook and his pride. Then there's Megan Priestly, who would love to turn the canines into an instrument of revenge against her ex-lover, Campbell Findlay, who has broken her heart and stolen her ideas. Lining up for a crack at the statues are a couple of neds who work in the local crematorium and so have a convenient means of turning the dogs back into the pure gold from which they were made. Bringing up the rear is Kyle, a lad with a higher purpose, home schooled on his tiny island of Creagsaigh, now in Glasgow for the first time in his young life and determined to retrieve the sacred Shih tzu for his Buddhist master, the monk Quang Tu.

It takes a sure hand to bring all these characters together in a (sufficiently) coherent plot and steer them toward their richly deserved destinies and Donna Moore is more than equal to the task. In her previous book, GO TO HELENA HANDBASKET, Moore skewered the cliches of the crime fiction genre; here she reanimates the art heist caper and adapts it to the peculiarities of Glasgow.

Because regardless of the brilliance of the plotting, what really lifts OLD DOGS is the language. Her cast is drawn from a pretty broad social range and speaks accordingly. She's especially good at the obscenity-littered conversation of Raymie and Dunc, her hapless pair of crematorium workers. But everyone swears in this one, except maybe Kyle. I only mention it in case you are one of those who feels that rude language is the refuge of the unimaginative. Trust me, it isn't, not in this book at any rate.

OLD DOGS reminded me less of books like Westlake's Dortmunder series (which, frankly, I find a lot less funny than many do) and more of those rare movies like A FISH CALLED WANDA or Woody Allen's TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN - preposterous, divinely silly, and ultimately touching. It would be lovely if some ambitious Glaswegian film director would try filming this one. Until such time, however, you have the book - read it and laugh.

Yvonne Klein is a writer, translator, and retired college English professor who lives in Montreal.

Reviewed by Yvonne Klein, July 2010

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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