Wednesday I wanted some simple escapism and I found it in Jason Miller’s mystery Red Dog. The 2016 book is the second in Miller’s Slim in Little Egypt series (after 2015’s Down Don’t Bother Me). So far, I’ve gotten what I wanted, but I’ve also found a few flaws.
Slim is a low-rent private eye who lives in southern Illinois. (One of the strongest aspects of Red Dog is Miller’s vivid description of the novel’s setting). Slim lives with his 13-year-old daughter, Anci, who serves as his de facto partner. The Anci character is engaging, but she’s unbelievable. She reminds me of the kids in movies and on TV – a character so mature and so wise that you know she could never be a real person.
Here’s the Story
The plot is still unfolding through page 76. Without giving too much away, Slim is hired to find a missing dog by a father and son named Sheldon and A. Evan Cleaves. He gets $65 as a retainer. Naturally, the plot leads to more-serious crimes. So far, I’m engaged in the story and anxious to see what happens next.
Miller can turn a phrase. Here is his description of A. Evan Cleaves (who, confusingly, is also nicknamed Slim):
Areas for Improvement
While I am enjoying Red Dog, I can already see several shortcomings (beyond characters who don’t always ring true). For one, Miller includes a scene in which a character’s finger is sliced off with a machete. Afterward, neither character behaves in a realistic manner.
Also, as with many of today’s noir writers, Miller introduces politically- correct theme and dialogus into Red Dog (though mostly between the lines). Among other issues, he discourses on guns, feminism, and global warming. As is generally the case in noir novels, the politics detract rather than add.
So Far, So (Pretty) Good
Red Dog arrived at my house Tuesday in a big order from Edward R. Hamilton. As of page 76, I’m pretty happy with Red Dog. It isn’t fine literature, but I wasn’t looking for Shakespeare.