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". . .snow storm of well-rendered descriptive passages and disjointed narrative . . ."
Water Dogs: A mystery that takes too long to get off the mark.|
Bennie and Littlefield live alone in the Manse now that their mother has moved to Florida. Bennie’s twin Gwen lives in New York. Their father, Coach, died many years ago, and their mother left Misquacook when the boys were old enough to fend for themselves and returned to her hometown.
Gwen calls to let Bennie know when she is returning to the Manse as she does every year to celebrate their twenty-seventh birthday. Littlefield and Bennie maintain their usual routines. Littlefield keeps to himself while Bennie spends time with Helen, a cook at Julian’s bar and grill, works at the animal hospital and plays paintball with Littlefield, Julian and their usual opponents.
Their weekly game of paintball ends without a winner, something none of the players is happy about. They get weapons and set out to finish the game in the teeth of a snowstorm. Bennie tags his man and then he falls off a cliff onto the frozen waters of the quarry, breaking his leg. Bennie’s opponents climb down into the quarry to rescue him and take him to the hospital where he wakes to the news that Ray LaBrecque from the opposing team is missing. Littlefield was hunting him at the time and came back safe, but Ray is nowhere to be found. The locals search for him and suspect Ray went to Canada, but as time passes, and no one hears from Ray or has seen him, suspicion grows that Ray is dead and Littlefield is responsible.
What could have been an intriguing mystery in Water Dogs takes too long to get to the point. Author Lewis Robinson traipses off into the past at every turn, miring the story in background details that do little to move the story forward or illuminate the main characters. Littlefield remains a taciturn and silent two-dimensional character who remains a mystery. Although both Bennie and Littlefield are nearing thirty, they seem little more than poster boys for arrested adolescence. The female characters act just as adolescent as the male characters.
There are moments when Robinson’s descriptive writing is moving and compelling, providing color and texture to a bleak winter landscape and shadowy characters. But it never connects with the main point of the story, the mystery surrounding Ray LaBrecque’s disappearance. It is as if Robinson cannot make up his mind whether Water Dogs is a literary novel or a mystery. The book contains elements of both without a solid connecting bridge.
Water Dogs left me frustrated and thoroughly confused as I wandered blindly through the erratic snowstorm of well-rendered descriptive passages and disjointed narrative to find the plot.
Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell