The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office includes CAT, the Canine Assist Team loosely led by Deputy Tim Hallett and his partner, a Belgian Malinois named Rocky. Hallett was once a detective, but one violent action when he threatened a child molester forced him off the detective unit. Now, Hallett has found his place, working with Rocky, the best partner he ever had, along with Claire Perkins and her German Shepherd, Smarty, and Darren Mori and his Golden Retriever, Brutus. Each dog has their own skills, and under the trainer, Ruben, the three officers are learning to rely on their dogs' knowledge and expertise. It takes skill for the officers to learn their dogs' language, and vice versa.
The sugarcane fields of south Florida are not easy to work with dogs, but it's Rocky who finds a teenage girl who was abducted. Fortunately, the team finds her alive. But, it takes Hallett back to memories of the case that had him thrown out of the detective unit. When his special team is called in to work with the detectives, Hallett is convinced the offender he threatened is behind the current abductions of young women. But, Hallett's obsession could take him down the wrong track, despite Rocky's attempts to point him in the right direction.
Tim Hallett and Rocky stand out. Rocky has become an essential part of the police officer's life, as he juggles his unusual family, the menagerie he tends, and his work life. Hallett is intense, although the cop humor comes across in the book. But, it's Rocky he eases Hallett's tension. In fact, it's Rocky's relationship with Tim that makes Hallett a likable guy.
Born puts his own spin on the police procedural. The crime novel emphasizes the danger the dogs and their partners face on a daily basis, but also the monotony and boredom that cannot become dangerous in itself. Although the story focuses on Tim Hallett, Rocky, and the sexual predator, there are multiple voices in the story, including Rocky's. It works. The style helps to show the multiple paths an investigation can take, the various viewpoints of a case. Born's characters are individuals with their own distinct personalities. And, the dogs have their own strengths as well. The characters are well-developed in what could easily become a successful crime series.
If you've read so many crime novels that they all seem to run together, try Scent of Murder. It's a polished, riveting story of partners, devoted to each other, and determined to protect the public. It's Florida, seen through the eyes of an unusual team. Meet some heroes to root for, a special unit of K-9 cops in James O. Born's best crime novel yet.
James O. Born's website is www.jamesoborn.com
If you'd like to see the author playing "attack dummy" for a police dog, check out the book trailer for Scent of Murder. (Used with permission from the author.)
Scent of Murder by James O. Born. Forge. 2015. ISBN 9780765378477 (hardcover), 304p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.