Something Deadly
by Rachel Lee, contemporary (2004)
MIRA, $6.50, ISBN 0-7783-2004-9

One of the problems of being stuck in a country where internet connection is slow and I am forced to watch cable TV to pass the time is that I watched more Hallmark TV movies these last two weeks than in my entire last year. Before I read Something Deadly, I am still reeling from a really awful TV movie about how a family dog overcomes cancer and changes her owners' lives. A dog overcoming cancer? That's really low even for Hallmark when it comes to plumbing manipulative and exploitative materials for bad TV tearjerkers.

Then comes Rachel Lee's Something Deadly. Its prologue indicates some of the good things to come: the many dogs in this story will get to tell parts of the story from their points-of-view. What works very well for me in Disney's Homeward Bound (the original one - the sequel is terrible) does not work in this book at all. And I love dogs!

The main problem for me is that Ms Lee treats the dogs in this story not as dogs but as extensions of their human owners. These dogs behave like loyal, unthinking servants, like Lassie with ten times the duty complex. I like happy, naughty dogs, maybe because the dogs I know are such dogs - they don't play fetch (we all agree that the game is stupid), they don't roll over unless it's to get me to scratch their tummy, and they certainly don't howl, "Noooo! Please don't leave me!" when they feel the Great Evil stealing their owners' soul. The dogs in this story aren't dogs as much as what the author believes that the dogs are thinking and behaving like, and in this case, the author makes the dogs too much like humorless, dour creatures that spent three years too long at doggie school.

And besides, dogs howling for their masters like some pathetic, helpless nitwits make me laugh. The prologue leaves me in stitches but that's not the effect Ms Lee is looking for, so that's rather unfortunate.

This inability of me to read through a doggie's point of view in Something Deadly without laughing like a loon and reading aloud the passages in question to the annoyed-looking pomeranian Elsie at my brother's place is really a pity because otherwise, this story is a pretty decent romantic suspense. For one, the main characters are free from the usual tired baggages so many romance authors believe their romantic suspense novels must have. The heroine Markie Cross is a vet in the island of San Martin while the hero is medical examiner Declan Quinn. They come together to investigate a series of deaths in San Martin. The victims suffer from a mysterious illness. Soon, they realize that all these strange events that disturb Markie's dogs and leave so many people dead are tied up to a legendary Great Evil that may have returned to wreck havoc on San Martin.

There are some unnecessary skanky sex scenes that do nothing for this story. With this coupled with the especially unfortunate unintentionally hilarious doggie points-of-view, Something Deadly is one story that I just cannot get into. While I find the story engaging enough to finish this book in one sitting, I do not particularly succeed in taking this story as seriously as I should have. I like Markie and Declan; they could have been a cute couple in a story that could have come straight out of the unfortunately axed Mysterious Ways (a less cynical and more sentimental The X-Files if you haven't caught it yet, which you should, because Adrian Pasdar is dreamy and the stories can really be very good). But those doggies just ain't doin' it for me, I'm afraid.

Rating: 74

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