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K9-noir novel, ‘Suspect,’ sniffs out suspense, heart

Posted on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 11:19 am

Coming to bookstores Friday “Suspect,” a suspense novel   by New York Times best-selling author Robert Crais, is a story of loss and recovery when no one else wants to believe.

While on patrol in Afghanistan, Maggie, an explosives sniffing Marine K9, is wounded and her handler killed by a sniper.

A world away in Los Angeles, patrol officers Scott James and Stephanie Anders are gunned down by automatic rifle fire when they respond to what appears to be a routine traffic accident that turns out to be a carefully organized hit on two local hoods.

Shot and lying on the street dying, Stephanie begs, “Scotty, don’t leave me,” as he pulls himself up to face their masked attackers, before being shot twice more and left for dead.

Scott recovers from the physical wounds, but the memories of that night haunt his waking hours.

Through the next months, the investigation of the shooting goes cold, and Scott, guilt ridden, transfers to the K9 division rather than face another partner.

There he finds Maggie, suffering from a doggie version of posttraumatic stress disorder, who has been transferred stateside to convalesce.

Deep in an out-of-the-way kennel, Maggie spends her days mourning her handler.

The two officers are a liability the department doesn’t want.

New detectives assigned to the shooting invite Scott into a token piece of the investigation.

Scott grabs the chance and with the help of Maggie’s sense of smell is able find some evidence to push the investigation along.

Yet, when a potential witness is murdered, and the evidence points to Scott, he and Maggie must find the killers before they can pin the murders on him.

“Suspect” is a first rate suspense thriller with a fast-moving plot, and quick dialog.

The novel delivers where most others fail, bringing together action, quick dialog and a smart plot.

But more that just action, the novel is about the bond between the K9s and their handlers.

Crais, known for his L.A.-based novels and police connection, has clearly done his homework on the dogs.

Craig, said in a press release, “It was out of respect for that special relationship that I strove to present Maggie’s world as accurately as our current understanding of canine behavior allows.”

Canine PTSD is a real condition that affects certain service dogs.

According to a story in the New York Times, over five percent of the 650 dogs returning from Afghanistan show symptoms resembling PTSD.

While the dogs don’t precisely understand the nature of the explosives they hunt, noise and chaos of combat are unmistakable signs of danger.

Dogs with the disorder show changes in temperament, some cringe at loud noises or refused to enter buildings and, most notably, quit doing what they were trained to do.

Preventative measures include breaks from patrolling and frequent playtimes.

Treatment requires de-conditioning and sometimes being pulled from the field.

Crais is the author of the number-one New York Times bestseller “Taken.” Other credits include 15 Elvis Cole novels and “Hostage,” which was made into the 2005 film starring Bruce Willis.

“Suspect” will be available in stores and e-books   on Friday.