Murder in the canine world?
'A Hell of a Dog'
Review by Wendy Brandes
Web posted on: Friday, October 30, 1998 3:52:00 PM EST
(CNN) -- Who is killing top dog trainers? Private investigator Rachel Alexander and her partner, a pit bull named Dashiell, sniff out the culprit in Carol Lea Benjamin's "A Hell of a Dog."
Super-chic Samantha ("Sam") Lewis has lured the best and brightest canine behaviorists to a week-long symposium in New York City. She fears they'll be as competitive as, um, a bunch of female dogs in heat. So she hires Rachel, a trainer-turned-detective, to infiltrate the group and attempt to head off any violence.
Now, dog people can be very hot-headed -- just try mentioning breed banning or electronic-collar training on a canine-oriented Internet bulletin board and watch the fur fly. Yet, a plot that assumes a group of elite trainers would cause each other mortal harm is a bit far-fetched.
Nevertheless, Benjamin's breezy wit makes for an entertaining read as trainers are permanently bumped from Sam's lecture schedule despite her precautions. The book is like an Italian greyhound -- lightweight, but lively.
Since the author herself is a trainer, the book is a treat for pooch fanatics. Sam's dark eyes are as "bright as a schipperke's," observes Rachel. Elsewhere, Rachel's love interest looks as "sad as a shelter dog." Trainers bad-mouth competitors' dogs with asides such as, "Isn't she tall for a shepherd?" And Beryl Potter, the elder stateswoman of the group, uses an "alpha stare" to get the better of a male upstart. "...I suggest you rethink your position," she growls. "Actually, rolling over, exposing your neck, and urinating would be more appropriate." (Non-dog people will have to trust me when I say that the put-down is devastating.)
New Yorkers and other cosmopolitan types will appreciate Rachel's "city-gal" perspective on life. In her opinion, tacky is standing in line for the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building.
Of course, people from Manhattan will know that, while much of the Sunday New York Times is delivered to subscribers Saturday morning, the style section is not. So, there's no way Rachel could be reading it when Sam first calls. But that's a minor kibble ... er, quibble.
If you're neither a dog-owner nor an urbanite, Rachel's adventures may not tickle your fancy. But lines such as: "Less is more. Except when it comes to money and sex," can coax a smile from practically anyone, suburban cat lovers included.
Back to the top
© 2000 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.