Saturday, May 21, 2011

A crime novel for those who prefer their crime with a bit of humor

Metzger's Dog: A NovelMetzger's Dog: A Novel by Thomas Perry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was originally written in 1983, and it is still funny. It is a crime fiction/spy fiction/caper/humor book. Dr. Henry Metzger of the title is clearly the smartest and most self-assured character in the book. He is the main character's cat, and yes, he does have his own dog. A giant, drooling, junkyard dog. The main character, Chinese Gordon, is the brains and leader of a group of good-hearted criminals who have decided, through a circuitous chain of events, to blackmail the CIA. While Chinese is the brains of his gang of crooks, his girlfriend, Margaret is clearly the brains behind Chinese. She is delightfully slinky and smart. There aren't too many brains to speak of on the CIA side, with the exception of one old-guard operative who isn't, unfortunately, at the top of the CIA food chain.

Perry's writing has that rollicking, noirish, tough-guy quality that you sometimes find in Elmore Leonard's dialogue. The plot is serpentine, the protagonists are unfailingly cool, and I was halfway through the book before it occurred to me that that technology was way outdated for this to be a contemporary book (I know, librarians are supposed to figure this stuff out faster -- duh). I was impressed that the book has stood the test of time so well. In the audiobook version, Carl Hiaasen provides an intro that I would advise skipping. I highly recommend the book in its original version, though, for a fun, irreverent read.

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