Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Review: The Purloined Poodle by Kevin Hearne

Painted cover of The Purloined Poodle. An enormous grey Irish Wolfhound sits beside a red-haired white man who sits in an armchair with his fingers steepled. A Boston Terrier sits on the other side of the chair. Behind the group is a mantlepiece and a wall hung with paintings of Sherlock Holmes and a French Poodle.
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

THE PURLOINED POODLE [Amazon | Audible | Kobo], the latest novella in the Iron Druid Chronicles, finally turns the spotlight on Oberon, the Irish Wolfhound whose love of meat is matched only by his desire for thrilling stories into which he can insert himself. When Oberon and his Druid, Atticus, learn that someone has been kidnapping Grand Champion show dogs from across the Pacific Northwest, Oberon knows it’s both his duty and his privilege to find the culprit before any more hounds are hurt. No one with any decency could possibly leave a poodle in peril.

Oh my goodness, this was so much fun. Oberon has been my favourite IDC character from day one, and I had a blast getting inside his head in such an immersive way after years of watching him in a supporting role. He’s smart and intuitive, having been taught language and told a thousand interesting stories by his Druid, but he’s also very much a dog. He has trouble telling the difference between seconds and millennia, he’s firmly food-motivated, and he’s pretty sure the entire world centres on him. Which sounds arrogant, I know, but Oberon’s so sincere, and so willing to use his Main Character status to help others, that his self-interest loops past arrogance and lands him straight in the middle of charming.

Like, the whole investigation is Oberon’s jam. Atticus is just along for the ride, though of course his ability to provide transportation and question witnesses comes in handy. (Oberon can only talk to people with whom he shares a mental link.) Oberon gathers the clues, undertakes the all-important butt sniffs and play sessions when they meet other dogs, and finds himself a Watson equivalent in Starbuck, a Boston Terrier who needs a caregiver after his person encounters the wrong end of a tranquilizer dart. And in addition to all that, it's Oberon's job to ensure Atticus doesn’t get so caught up in the mystery that he forgets about the other important things in life, like snacks.

Oberon’s houndly perspective makes the novella a delight from start to finish. The mystery is a good ‘un with suitably high stakes (dogs in peril! Manslaughter afoot!), but it’s Oberon’s take on the situation polishes it to a high shine. It helps, too, that he takes the whole scenario so personally. As if he’s gonna lounge around eating steaks when his fellow dogs are in danger! Someone has to stand up for these hounds. Oberon can, so he does. And he has a hell of a lot of fun along the way, even given the serious consequences if the purloined pooches aren't discovered in time. I dearly hope he and Starbuck will stick together and investigate more Meaty Mysteries down the line.

So far as the series timeline goes, this novella takes place shortly after STAKED and is best read in chronological order so you don’t pick up any spoilers for the novel. You'll probably enjoy it most if you're already an Oberon fan, too. The gorgeous limited edition hardcover is already sold out, but Subterranean Press did us all a solid with this one and released the ebook concurrently with the prestige edition. It’s even available outside the US!

There’s also an audio production performed by the mega-talented Luke Daniels. I heard his Oberon voice in my head as I read, and I’m sure the proper audiobook is a real treat.

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