A small family is making ends meet partly by allowing their purebred to reproduce, going through the many hoops required to be a “good” breeder and make money off the pups. Late at night they hear a noise, only to quickly see someone stealing the dogs. The father rushes out in an attempt to help, his shotgun is stolen and he is killed. It’s a pretty quick and brutal setup for this latest mystery starring Superintendent Roy Grace.
Context is important to any mystery or crime novel, and a key aspect of this one comes from the fact that rabies is virtually unheard of in the United Kingdom. Specifically it is noted throughout the book that there had not been a confirmed case in England since 1922. While cases are rare in the USA, the difference will cause some readers to react differently than others. On the other hand the development of the disease is Is the most part quite realistic, with even the deviations from the norm being matters with a certain degree of medical truth.
And yet it is not the issue of rabies which so centers this book, but instead the issue that leads to it. Specifically the illegal trade in dogs during the pandemic, and to a lesser extent otherwise, is the major mover of the story. A great deal of sympathy towards canines is given from long time owners and well intentioned new pet parents to the owners of mills and even street criminals are given a fair bit of time and attention. One can tell the depth of research and analysis that went into understanding the issue.
Continually switching points of view and plot lines, the fact that they must all eventually relate together will lead the reader to quickly understand certain points that may take the investigators longer. Even so the individual directions of the aforementioned plot lines tend to remain entertaining with or without audience understanding of their importance to the larger narrative.
While very much a continuation of a long-running series, the book holds up well enough on its own. As Peter James is a best selling author his books stand more of a chance than most of continuing, meaning the fact it doesn’t read well as a final book is fairly unimportant. With somewhat more set pieces than certain nerves in the series, It does rather raise the question of whether or not the author is beginning to envision screen adaptations as opposed to stage.
While not the best book to start this series on, it works well enough. For long time fans and readers it is an entertaining new chapter in the continuing investigations Grace works on. For people looking for a crime or mystery novel focused on the darker sides of dog trading and smuggling, you aren’t likely to find another recent good example.