Wow. I’m not sure if a review can do justice to Robert Crais’s new book, Suspect. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that moved me so much.
In essence, this is a man and dog story, but it’s definitely a crime novel, too. The protagonist is Scott James, an LAPD officer whose partner was killed and he was left for dead in a shoot-out near downtown LA. He’s wounded so badly that he could have opted to medical out of the force, but instead he did his best to get in the K-9 unit, even though he’s never owned a dog in his life.
This is where he and Maggie meet, though we as readers have already met her in the prologue. Maggie is a German shepherd and a former Marine Military Working Dog who was on her third tour of Afghanistan when her handler, Pete, was killed by an IED. She was shot by a sniper in the attack. Now she’s been retired and given to the LAPD. The sergeant in charge of the unit—who quite obviously likes dogs better than he does people—is about to reject her when Scott says he wants her. The sergeant—his name is Leland—gives him two weeks to get her in shape.
And so begins a journey of healing for both Scott and Maggie. The scenes of them bonding as Scott goes about trying to catch the people who killed his partner and left him for dead are mesmerizing, to say the least. And the scenes he does from Maggie’s POV are so well-written you come away convinced you know how dogs think, at least to an extent.
The part that moved me the most, though, for some reason, was a short chapter near the end when Maggie and Scott are headed for the finale (though of course they don’t know that). They’ve bonded now, and as far as Maggie is concerned, they are a pack. I could write the entire chapter, it’s so good, but I’ll just give you the last few paragraphs. They’re in Scott’s old beat-up Trans Am, headed out to meet up with a detective.
Maggie felt her own anticipation growing. She recalled similar signs in the moments before she and Pete walked the long roads, Pete strapping up, gathering himself, the other Marines doing the same. She remembered their words. Strap up. Strap up. Strap up.
Maggie whined with excitement.
Scott touched her, filling her heart with joy.
They would walk the long road.
Scott was strapped up.
Maggie danced from paw to paw, anxious and ready. The fur on her spine rippled from tail to shoulders as the taste of blood filled her mouth.
Pack would seek.
Pack would hunt.
Maggie and Scott.
I had to go back and read that two or three more times, it’s so powerful for me. I could feel how Maggie felt, that the two of them were ready to take on the world. She’d found a new alpha and everything was right with the world. She was ready to take on anything now.
I’m not going to go into too much detail about it, except to say go get it, read it. You’ll not regret a minute you spent doing so.