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Book Review: Suspect by Robert Crais

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Scott and Maggie have both just lost their partners in the line of duty, and they've each been shot and severely wounded as well. They're suffering from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and it's questionable if either of them will ever be able to work at their jobs again. Scott is a police officer and Maggie is a military working dog and after joining the LAPD's K-9 Platoon they begin the process of saving one another. So begins Suspect, Robert Crais's exceptional novel (release date January 22, 2013), where the story's entire subtext is about a special relationship that leads to mutual resurrection. "This is a story about a man healing a dog and the dog healing the man," said Crais. "It's a two way street."

Scott James was a rising star in the LAPD being groomed for its elite SWAT Unit until he got shot. Now he suddenly finds himself unwanted by any division, and it's more out of pity than anything else that he's accepted into the K-9 Platoon. It may be Scott's obsession with finding the five mysterious men who wounded him and killed his partner that has pushed him to remain with the LAPD, but it's his unexpected partnership and friendship with Maggie (a black and tan German Shepherd) that enables him to solve the murder.

We've all seen countless films where escaped prisoners are chased by bloodhounds following their scent, but we're never really educated as to exactly how these dogs are able to do what they do. Crais explains in great detail how a dog uses its sense of smell in ways that no machines or technology can or probably ever will duplicate. Many of Crais's previous books have moved at a breakneck pace, but Suspect is far more subtle, with the pieces of the puzzle slowly coming together as Scott and Maggie's relationship develops.

Crais found the bond between humans and dogs so moving that he had to write about it and what began out of curiosity on his part ultimately became a healing process with regard to the loss of his own dog. I've been a dog owner most of my adult life and have always appreciated my relationships with them, but Robert Crais has helped me to truly understand those associations from a dog's perspective. What's unique about Suspect is that Crais often writes from the dog's point of view in a manner that's extremely compelling because it's so completely believable. "They do what they do to please us or save us, because that's their nature -- they're pack animals and they know their role," said Crais. Maggie's nose is crucial to the plot, and it's amazing how she helps uncover a mystery that without her would have surely gone unsolved.

Throughout the book Crais frequently writes about Maggie's feelings of bliss and explained to me that, "when dogs fulfill their roles they are ecstatically happy." Service dogs not only assist the blind or function as K-9 police dogs, but they are also used as forces for healing at military hospitals as well as for children in cancer wards.

"Dogs give us something just as we give something to them," said Crais, and I never realized just how much until I finished reading his book. Suspect is a rare hybrid -- a first class crime thriller and a story about love between two friends.