Sleeping Dog

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

When Serendipity Dahlquist, age fourteen, comes home from school to discover that her pet dog is missing, she immediately reports the incident to the police. They have more pressing matters to attend to and foist her off on Leo Bloodworth, a down-and-out detective nicknamed “The Bloodhound.” Bloodworth is not interested either, but when his partner is murdered after giving Serendipity a ride home, he decides that there must be more to the case than meets the eye. He and the girl set off into the underworld of Los Angeles to track down the culprits, who turn out to be involved in a tightly organized dogfight operation.

SLEEPING DOG is basically a modernized version of TRUE GRIT: The feisty little heroine is alternately disgusted and charmed by the gruff detective, who is, in turn, dazzled and appalled by her. Serendipity is as memorable a character as Mattie Ross. Although she is described on the book jacket as a roller-skating Californian, she is anything but the typical Valley Girl. Her vocabulary is enormous, her grammer invariably correct, and her diction precise. Her opinions on contemporary culture are not only hilarious and outrageous but also level headed and devastatingly accurate. The hard-boiled detective, on the other hand, turns out to be quaintly chivalrous and hopelessly romantic, somewhat like TRUE GRIT’s, Rooster Cogburn. Serendipity nags him for smoking and drinking too much, and for eating red meat.

In an interesting stylistic experiment, Dick Lochte allows each character to take turns narrating the story. The premise--a variation on the time-honored device of the found manuscript--is that Bloodworth’s novelization of the case, DIE LIKE A DOG, and Serendipity’s journalistic DOG DAYS--originally published in the Bay High Guardian, California’s leading high school newspaper--both ended up in the hands of the same publisher, Lochte, who then combined the narratives in his own edited version. This narrative ploy results in an entirely successful reworking of detective thriller motifs that will appeal not only to mystery addicts but also to novel readers in general.