Gone to the Dogs

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

GONE TO THE DOGS is advertised on its front cover as “A Dog Lover’s Mystery.” Narrator Holly Winter is a columnist for a dog magazine and owner of two Alaskan malamutes. Descriptions of dogs, their antics, and their care receive significant attention throughout the book, and all the main characters are involved in the dog world. Although written with particular attention to a dog-oriented audience, this is a well-crafted mystery suitable for any reader.

The mystery begins when Oscar Patterson disappears from his clinic. Winter soon hears that on the night of his disappearance, Patterson quarreled with the owner of a dog that died in Patterson’s care, that Patterson’s girlfriend is pregnant, and that Patterson recently had punched a dog trainer who used questionable methods. These leads open up a field of suspects in Patterson’s disappearance. Further entanglements arise from Winter’s relationship; with her veterinarian and lover, Steve Delaney, and Delaney’s new partner in veterinary practice.

Winter’s narrative reveals facts about the characters throughout the book, drawing readers ever more deeply into the story. Winter investigates the questionable dog trainer, interviews Patterson’s girlfriend, and discovers that a dog being passed off as a mongrel is actually a member of a rare breed. She makes many of her accurate judgments based on how people treat their dogs, and dog behavior ends up being central to Patterson’s disappearance. The facts lead to a believable resolution with, as would be expected, a dog playing the hero’s role at the climax. Author Susan Conant uses a conversational style appropriate to her narrator, and in the course of relating events also gives valuable advice and information about dogs and their care.