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Not so much a 'whodunnit' as a 'who-was-it', this is a mystery with a difference. The title doesn't give much away, referring to a dog-walker who discovers the body of a vagrant on a beach. The story follows the lengthy police investigation into the apparent murder. But it's the identity of the apparent victim 'Henry' and the gradual revelation of his background that provide the real interest, along with the unexpected effect all of this has on the somewhat diffident narrator.
This is something of a slow burner but ultimately worthwhile. The narrative style seemed slightly eccentric, demanding some effort on the part of the reader. Perhaps it was just me, but at times I had to deduce the identities of speakers and narrator. This might not appeal to all mainstream crime fiction fans, but the plot is original and perseverance is ultimately rewarded.
The main setting is a small seaside community on the south coast of England, with the scene shifting from town to town as we retrace Henry's peregrinations. He remains an enigma throughout much of the book, defying all lines of enquiry, and the final 'reveal' certainly took me by surprise, as did the unexpected outcomes for our narrator/investigator.
'So he takes the dog' is essentially a story of lives and relationships profoundly affected by events. Populated by a colourful cast of characters and personalities, on one level this is a tragic tale of death, loss and infidelities, but it is also an intriguing case history that catches the imagination and retains our interest. I thought it significant that my wife enjoyed it so much, perhaps more than I really appreciated it, given her background in social work.
Not having come across this author before, I found Buckley's writing quietly effective and affecting. This is more than a standard formula detective 'procedural', though it does give some insight into the challenges facing police, their families and friends: a sort of value-added murder mystery.
I just hope our own dog never comes across anything quite so morbid when we're out walking!
This is a more demanding murder mystery which may not appeal to all crime fiction fans but it is an interesting novel that rewards perseverance.
~~Availability & price (February 2013)~~
From Amazon: Kindle version £4.99, paperback £10.79
~~Bibliographic details (from Amazon)~~
Paperback: 346 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial; (Reissue) edition (17 Aug 2009)
Audio (CD) and large print editions also available.