“What makes all the characters delightful is Ms. Conant’s refusal to anthropomorphize the animals. Rather, she tends to go the other way, using canine nature to explain people. . . . refreshingly original.”
You don’t have to be a dog lover to love this story. In fact, if you’re not a dog lover, it’s quite likely you’ll become one after reading any volume in the Holly Winter Dog Lover Mystery Series—of which Brute Strength makes number 19.
Author Susan Conant knows her dogs, especially Alaskan malamutes, and writes her stories around them. The series’ lead human character, Holly Winter, lives and breathes dogs and gets into interesting troubles surrounding them.
What makes all the characters delightful is Ms. Conant’s refusal to anthropomorphize the animals. Rather, she tends to go the other way, using canine nature to explain people. This gives the stories a fresh take on what otherwise are conventional cozy mysteries. Since readers of this genre are inclined to read for character and milieu rather than plot, it matters a lot to love the characters and want to stay with them for book after book.
Ms. Conant delivers, so that each volume is a fun, quick read chock-full of engaging people and dogs, interesting canine lore—especially that of the dog showing and training worlds, but also breed history and behavior—and credible descriptions of Cambridge, Massachusetts, home of Harvard University. Through Holly Winter, Ms. Conant lovingly pokes fun at the area and its eccentric culture. In fact, she lovingly pokes fun at everyone, never wavering from a light tone except where appropriate, like when dealing with murder.
Here, too, the books are refreshingly original. The crimes committed in Ms. Conant’s books arise from or take place within the dog world among doggy people. Sometimes it’s easy to guess whodunit (as in this volume); other times things are so unusual that it’s a head-scratcher to the very end. Either way, the heroine and her pack go about solving the mystery creatively, and often naively. But they never get into or out of danger in a way that’s hard for the reader to swallow.
Brute Strength is more centered around people than other books in the series, though it’s still the dogs who provide key clues and help save the day. Readers familiar with the series will miss the stronger canine focus of other volumes, while for new readers Brute Strength is as good an introduction as any and will likely entice them to read Ms. Conant’s backlist in order to get to know everyone better.
Even one book in the series may leave you more knowledgeable about and fonder of dogs than you were before opening the cover. If so, join the crowd waiting eagerly for the next volume in this series.