Lost Dog by Bill Cameron – review

Lost Dog, Bill CameronPeter McKrall is at a crossroads—out of work, fighting a klepto habit, and trying to figure out his next move. Life takes an unexpected turn when a search for his niece’s stuffed dog leads him to something else entirely: a bullet-riddled corpse. Talking to reporters lands Peter on the local news, which turns out to be a dangerous spotlight. And now Darla, the troubled daughter of the victim, is reaching out to him—but can she be trusted? When a second murder takes place and evidence is planted in his trash, the cops dredge up Peter’s painful history. The only ray of sunshine in this harrowing nightmare is Ruby Jane, whose warm smile melts the winter chill.

An unwitting player in a bizarre chain of events, Peter has no idea that the deranged killer is after him—until he takes a shot at Ruby Jane.

In the opening moments of the book we find Peter existing in a state of stasis. He doesn’t have a job and he’s trying to gain a measure of control over his kleptomania. In fact we meet Peter while he’s in the middle of coming up with excuses. Excuses not to go jogging, not to look for a job, not to go into the house. He’s renting his house from his sister so there isn’t any real impetus to find a job as she isn’t pressuring him about the rent. The discovery of the dead body will force him into activity.

Peter is interesting as a protagonist chiefly because of his kleptomania. The kleptomania represents itself interestingly at both ends of the spectrum. On one side there is a scene where Peter comes across a bloody condom at what might be a crime scene. The compulsion to pick it up and put it in his pocket is so great in him that he becomes literally becomes frozen where he stands. The mental and emotional battle that he wages with himself is compelling if not a little frightening but it serves as an illustrative example of his condition. On the other side of the spectrum is a small scene when he meets Ruby Jane and goes to her place. She is in the other room and he becomes obsessed with a pen that is left on a table. Again he very badly wants to put it in his pocket and wages the same battle with himself. This moment too passes with him making a decision about the object in question. Both of these moments show the diverse emotions that can be wrung out of the condition. From revulsion & horror all the way to a small measure of personal growth. To say he’s flawed would be an understatement.

As I said this book does have some flaws. Chief among them is Ruby Jane. She is an interesting character in that she serves as the impetus for change in Peters life. She provides a certain level of order in the chaos that is his life. She is warm, funny & endearing. We like her and could imagine knowing her. But the problem with her resides in one of her actions. Simply put she sleeps with Peter the night that she first meets him. One, this is out of character for how she is presented. Two, Peter is if not a suspect then certainly a person of interest in an ongoing murder investigation and she knows all about it. Am I really supposed to believe that because they are both from Kentucky and that her actions show her to be a good judge of character that she is really going to sleep with him. Its a bit of a jump for me. Undeniably they do have chemistry so I am fully onboard with their knowing each other, becoming friends, even starting a relationship. But that one moment bothered me.

Enough with that infernal criticism lets talk about Jake. Jake is the killer who focuses his attention on Peter. This cat is crazy. He starts off deranged and spins out of control. He is never cartoon-ish in his presentation, he is real, he will hurt you and he is scary. We come to find out that he had a traumatic childhood (I wont say more then that) and is now in his early to mid 20′s. His dialogue, both internal and external, is a brilliantly contrived mix of childishness and adult menace. He has moments where the child part kicks in and he doesn’t cuss, instead using words like poop, then in mid sentence the adult portion takes over and he becomes Tourette’s like as he spews forth a jumbled mess of angry cuss words. The effect is startling and scary. The tension between these two opposing sides of his personality resonates strongly with us. He may be one of the scariest characters that I have come across in recent memory.

Bottom line is that I liked this book a lot even with its evident flaws and I look forward to future novels by Bill Cameron.

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Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

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About Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

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