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THE WRONG DOG

A Rachel Alexander Mystery

By Carol Lea Benjamin

Avon, August, 2005 ($6.99)
ISBN: 0-06-076236-5

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

Rachel Alexander is a private investigator. Her partner is a bull terrier named Dashiell -- Dash for short. The two take on a case that could be quite simple -- locate a missing company called Side by Side. Unfortunately, the case quickly becomes more complicated than anyone involved could have imagined.

Sophie Gordon suffers from epilepsy and has a "seizure-alert" dog named Blanche. Blanche is getting on in years and suffers from arthritis. When a somewhat shady character approaches her and offers a replacement for Blanche, Sophie is skeptical but agrees. She receives a new puppy but is soon dismayed that Bianca, the new puppy, does not alert her to impending seizures. She wants to warn the company that her puppy is "defective" so that they won't give other "defective" puppies to unsuspecting clients. She can't find a trace of the company and realizes that to continue to search on her own would require too much time and energy so she hires Rachel to track down the company.

I had a bit of trouble getting started with this book because I found myself annoyed with the author's writing style. She has a way of dragging out the dialogue between two characters in the opening sequence that nearly drove me nuts. I truly was tempted to throw the book against the wall in my living room and move on to another, less annoying book. But I persevered and was rewarded for my effort.

Several times later in the story I became frustrated with the way the author didn't identify who was sneaking around, be it animal, mineral, or killer. On one occassion, I re-read a page and a half four or five times trying to figure out who "he" was. I couldn't believe I'd somehow missed the clue (or the actual name) of who had startled the plucky heroine. To my surprise, "he" hadn't been clearly identified and wasn't until sometime later. I imagine the author did this purposely, to add a sense of tension, suspense, or excitement to the story. I'll admit that it did add some suspense initially, but that was ruined by the frustration of not knowing who "he," "she," or "it" was in a more timely manner.

Overall, I'd recommend this book. Other readers may not be as troubled by the writing style as I was. And I will certainly seek out the other titles in this series, because despite my complaints, I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and wouldn't want to miss an adventure with Rachel and Dash.

Other titles in this series include: FALL GUY, THE LONG GOOD BOY, THIS DOG FOR HIRE, THE DOG WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, A HELL OF A DOG, LADY VANISHES and WITHOUT A WORD.

One last thing. You don't have to be a dog lover to enjoy this book. Dog lovers will enjoy it, buy not necessarily more than non-dog lovers. Dash is a dog who helps his "partner" Rachel in her detective business. But he's not silly about it. He doesn't talk, or have super dog powers. He just does what normal dogs do. Provide companionship and protection to their human partner.


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