Saturday, July 12, 2008


Ed Gorman is Mr. Reliable when it comes to delivering well-written and entertaining novels, no matter the genre, and Sleeping Dogs is no exception. It is a mystery—part whodunit, part political thriller, part suspense novel, and as a whole damn fun.

Dev Conrad is an experienced political consultant leading the reelection campaign of Senator Warren Nichols—a liberal senator who, more often than not, is on the right side of the issues (as far as Dev Conrad is concerned), but also, to Conrad's annoyance, he has difficulty keeping his pants secured around his waist. When the man Dev replaced unexpectedly commits suicide and the senator is poisoned Dev finds himself in a troubling situation. He needs to figure the set-up without tipping the press, the police, or anyone else who might harm the senator's chance for reelection.

Sleeping Dogs is one of the best mystery novels I've read this year, and there are two significant reasons why. The first is the protagonist. Dev Conrad is a well-developed character who is irreverent, tough, humorous with a dry and dark wit, and annoyingly (at least to himself, but never to the reader) sanctimonious. He knows the political mean streets and while he takes his job seriously he never takes the play-acting and posturing that is politics seriously. He is an average man who has hopes, dreams, problems, a broken family, and hell, even trouble getting a date.

The second is the background and setting. The atmosphere of the political campaign feels authentic. Ed Gorman is a former political speech-writer and if some of what he writes about in Sleeping Dogs—campaign infighting, cynicism and the foibles of running a massive public relations front—aren't based on his experiences the reader will never know because it looks and feels real.

The mystery is also terrific. It builds on itself one logical and surprising step at a time and Mr. Gorman uses enough craftsmanship and adds more than enough twists to give the reader a few surprises. The supporting cast is well-defined and interesting, and the overall tone and style of the novel is nearly perfect as it changes from cynical to idealistic to angry to melancholy to funny and back again. Sleeping Dogs gets my vote and it's very definately worth the poll tax.

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