The Barker's Dozen
reminiscences of an early police dog
by Robert Warr
1 star - oh dear, I very much wanted to like this book
The Barker's Dozen is a set of (oddly) 13 short detective stories which take place in England during the Victorian era. Snuffles the spaniel is companion to Inspector Richard Thompson of Scotland yard and plays no small role in solving crimes.
Snuffles, it turns out, is capable of human speech and each chapter is told by Snuffles under the pretext of entertaining Inspector Thompson's nephew.
The writing is often clever and one is reminded at times that the narrator is, indeed, a dog, by passages such as this:
For a young dog, this was an extremely exciting occasion. Not only was there a murder to investigate but Maygrove House had a large lake, with ducks! It was a hot day and I must admit the thought of a swim appealed to me. For me, to think is to do. I have always been a dog of action. I ran down the lawn towards the lake. I must admit that I so forgot myself as to bark at the ducks. I even ignored your uncle's clear instructions to stop. Splash! I entered the water, only to find that it was four inches deep and covered thick [with] mud. It was some few minutes later that I was dragged from the lake, covered with mud and embarrassment.
Unfortunately, Snuffles reveals his doggie nature rarely and mostly the text is comprised of his matter of fact recounting of how events played out.
Now I wanted to like this book. A great effort and, I suspect, self published (I assume, based on discovering typographical errors), and I am always one to encourage new authors. Sadly, the book missed the mark as both a dog book and a detective book. The mysteries had a sameness to them and there is no opportunity for the reader to try and figure things out. In the set of stories that I did read, the major clues are revealed simply during conversations that Snuffles has with various cats, birds, and other wildlife and, by the end, all that remains is for him to figure out how to convey his information to Inspector Thompson without actually speaking to him (a behavior that is reserved for Inspector Thompson's nephew).
So, no, I did not finish the book and it is off to the library this very day.