‘Suspect,’ by Robert Crais

I generally don’t read books featuring dogs (except for Dean Koontz books, where you can’t avoid them), for the same reason I don’t own a dog. It’s because I love dogs dearly, and firmly believe that no master (certainly including me) has ever been worthy of his canine pet. I’m not sure I can bear the purity of a dog’s love.

Which made Robert Crais’ novel Suspect difficult in places. That’s not to say I didn’t like it. But if you aren’t an actual dog hater, this one will break your heart – in a good way.

Scott James is a Los Angeles cop who’s gotten derailed on his career path to SWAT. He was shot and severely injured in an ambush where his female partner was killed. After months of recovery and rehab, he’s ready to return to work – pretending he’s in better shape than he is. He’s not fit enough for SWAT anymore, so he’s switching to the K-9 squad.

At the end of his training he meets Maggie, a German Shepherd who was formerly a bomb sniffing dog in Afghanistan. She lost her partner and was wounded too, and is hostile to anyone who’s not “pack.” But something in her touches Scott, and he gets permission to try her as his partner. They’re both on probation, they both have PTSD, and they’re not entirely ready for service.

Scott starts digging into the ambush where his partner was killed, and begins to suspect police involvement and a cover-up. Keeping his head down while trying to camouflage his own (and his dog’s) physical shortcomings, he walks a dangerous path. But the man has a Best Friend.

Exciting, gripping, and deeply moving, Suspect is a tremendously entertaining read. Crais has taken a risk in writing a stand-alone not related to his Cole and Pike novels, but he succeeds completely. Highly recommended, with the usual cautions for adult themes and language.

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