I am not sure that the elusive J.F. Englert would completely approve of the post below, but a New York newspaper recently did a kind review of the book and a profile of the author that I would like to share with you. I do know that he would like to thank Partners & Crime Mystery Booksellers for their support and enthusiasm for A Dog About Town, as well as the many readers of the book who have registered their approval of Yours Truly, the story and other particulars in their many reviews.
Ex-Island writer goes to the dog for murder tale
STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The “little gray cells” that catch the culprits in mystery novels belong to a professional, like Hercule Poirot, a Scotland Yard attache, or an amateur, like Jane Marple, a sweet, ruthless old lady who solved murders as a hobby.
As all murder novel addicts know, the characters were developed by Agatha Christie, grande dame of the genre. Many decades later, writers still have only two choices for chief investigator: Professional or amateur.
This summer a third choice, J.F. Englert’s new “A Dog About Town” (Dell Mystery, $8.99), has arrived. In this tale, a sharp-nosed Labrador named Randolph solves the crime.
“A Dog About Town” takes place almost entirely on the Upper West Side, where a seemingly harmless intellectual named Lyell Overton Minsikoff-Hardy has perished in an undignified fashion. He was stricken in the bathroom.
Of course, his death was murder.
Abetted by his sad-sack master Harry, the un-shaggy Randolph builds his case by cataloguing scents and information. Emotional states and character flaws all emit infallible aromas only a dog’s nose can detect.
Unusual characters (occult investigators, grifters and a Guatemalan tree sloth) help push the intricate plot along. Occasional scholarly digressions into the life and times of John James Audobon, among others, build suspense.
The interplay between dog and master remains central throughout. They don’t actually talk. Harry is no Dr. Doolittle. Still, fluent communication and miscommunication occurs.
Speech eludes Randolph, although he can read. He learned by studying the newspapers put down as house-breaking aids in his puppyhood.
He’s an appealing doggish/human presence. He doesn’t resemble the current best-known mystery novel pet, Rita Mae Brown’s cat character, Sneaky Pie, although the cat also works cases.
Erudite and well-read, Randolph may remind some readers of Mr. Peabody, the time-traveling mixed-breed of the vintage “Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.” Unlike snooty Peabody, Randolph never, never resorts to howlingly bad puns.
He is not infallible. By the end of “A Dog About Town” he still hasn’t figured out why Harry’s beautiful girlfriend Imogen disappeared months earlier without a word. Stay tuned. The book is the first in a series.
WARD HILL NEXT?
Author J.F. Englert spent his formative years — the first eight — on Ward Hill. He recalls living in “a huge old house that my parents always dreamed of renovating but never could.”
The house came with ghost stories “and the Civil War stretchers in the basement.” The place may have fertilized his inventive capacities. “The house was a tonic for my imagination,” he wrote by e-mail.
Although the author’s Upper West Side household includes a Lab today, she belonged originally to his wife.
Randolph arrived independently. According to the author: “Randolph sprang to life one December several winters ago fully formed, unannounced and with attitude. I found myself looking at the first five pages of what would become ‘A Dog About Town.’ His voice and character was definite and he had a story to tell — of that I was certain.”
Michael J. Fressola is the Advance arts editor. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.