Friday, November 22, 2013


by Brad Smith

Okay, full disclosure right at the start. I'm a huge Brad Smith fan. I've thoroughly enjoyed every one of his books from the comic noir stand-alones to the recent Virgil Cain series. So, don't be surprised if I state I really enjoyed Shoot the Dog, the third Cain novel.

So, why review it? Because you never know. Not everyone has a winner every time. But Shoot the Dog didn't let me down. It's the same laid back guy with his own code for living and that includes his view of justice. He's still occasional bedmate of police investigator Claire Marchand, the woman who first arrested him in Run Red Run, the first book in the series. Yes, he's been in and out of jail. The out part is what counts. Because Cain, former ball player turned farmer, is one of the good guys who just seems to fall into bad situations and he takes it on the chin, knowing that good trumps evil.

This time, Cain finds himself in the middle of a feature-length movie being filmed in the area. His two Percherons have been hired to use in the western, and Cain is also on the payroll as their handler. When the female lead is murdered, Cain tries hard to just carry on with his work but of course, he's eventually pulled into the fray when he tries to help a young actor who looks lonely and lost. If you've ever wanted to hang around a movie set, this is your opportunity.

This time out, there's not too much chance Cain will end up in jail, although past antagonisms with one of Claire's co-workers always hover. It's Claire who takes the lead and we follow along with her investigation, as seen through her eyes. This is one of Brad Smith's talents -- multiple viewpoint characters, a technique that in many writers' hands can lead to confusion or dissatisfaction for the reader. Smith handles it effortlessly and what the reader gets is a fully-rounded story with well-developed people and multiple motives for everything from jobs to murder.

His writing is clean and detailed, peppered with information that may appear to be extraneous but really adds value to the characters, setting, and plot. He knows about details -- which ones to put in and which one's to leave out. It's a book I would recommend to anyone wanting to hone their writing skills. And besides that, it an enjoyable read with a satisfying mystery.

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