BOOK & BLOG
October 9, 2005
Book of the Week: Without a Word by Carol Lea Benjamin
I had a choice of good books to talk about this week. I read two really excellent mysteries, Jodi Comptons The 37th Hour, and Carol Lea Benjamins Without A Word. I decided to focus on Benjamins simply because Carol is a friend of mine, in the way writers who dont get to see each other too often can form a bond. I admire Carol immensely because she says what she thinks, stands up for herself without a qualm, and shell do anything to make life more pleasant for Dexter, her constant canine companion. For someone who was brought up in the indirect ways of a Southern woman, this seems absolutely amazing and admirable.
Without A Word is another novel in Benjamins series about Rachel Alexander, a private eye who is as tough and logical as any private eye on the scene today. Rachel has a partner who happens to be a dog, and the two make a formidable team. Now, there are books where the animals are sleuths, and there are books where the amateur detective is an avid pet owner, but I have to admit, those are not my favorites. In Carols books, Dashiell (a pit bull) is a dog not a human wearing a dog suit. Dash has lots of capabilities, and hes often preferable to a human partner, but hes a DOG . . . to Rachel, a separate but equal being.
Having given all this background, its only fair I actually discuss this specific book. Rachel is approached by Leon Spector, former teacher and current photographer, whose daughter Madison has been accused of stabbing her pediatrician with an injection of Botox. Madison, who has been silent since her mother Sally vanished five years before, will not utter a word in her own defense, and her father, who has no way of connecting with the 12-year-old, resorts to Rachel. He wants Rachel to find his wife, in the hopes that being reunited with Sally will open Madisons lips. What Rachel discovers, in her search for Sally, are hard truths about what people will do when faced with circumstances utterly beyond their control.
If you enjoy Without A Word as much as I did, youre in for a real treat, because youll get to read all the other Rachel and Dash books for the first time.
Finally, cool weather! I actually wore long sleeves yesterday for the first time in many months, and the dogs were content to lie around outside rather than yipping to get in by the air conditioner. Our oldest dog, Sugar, even ran a little bit, something thats almost beyond her. (Shes our oldest in terms of how long shes lived with us; we dont actually know how old she may be. We figure shes between twelve and fourteen.)
Our vet is trying something new on the animals hes hosting that were sent up from New Orleans. Its called DAP, and its dog pheromones in a device that plugs into the wall like a scent dispenser. The pheromones are supposed to calm your upset canine. Since Sugar had been at the vets for two weeks and had two operations (Sugar has cancer), he loaned us the device after Sugar showed she was very jangled at being separated from us for so long. With some misgivings, we plugged it in. I dont know if it was the DAP, or simply time and healing, but Sugar did seem to calm down. She didnt bark if we closed the bedroom door, she didnt want to go in and out five times during the night, etc. It was a definite improvement.
We didnt notice any difference in our other two dogs, Rocky and Oscar.
I hope the animals shipped up here from New Orleans got some benefits from the pheromone therapy. God knows, those poor creatures need help. I wish there were an easy answer to many problems facing us in the wake of this catastrophe, but theres no instant fix for the humans or for the animals caught up in it.
For those of you who are muttering, Doesnt she like cats?, let me hastily add that I love cats very much. But my husband and daughter are both allergic, and after trying various things (yes, including shots, including keeping the cat outside), we had to reach the sane conclusion that life was better for them if we just didnt have a cat. We had two ferrets for several years, and I adored them, but with reservations. Eventually, Slinky and Harry went to the happy ferret hunting ground in the sky, and I hope they are hiding television remotes and tubes of Neosporin to their hearts content.
Since I finished Carols book, Ive been thinking of all that animals add to our lives. I think Ive had a pet continuously throughout my life, except for the few years I lived in an apartment and was gone all day. Ive already blathered a long time about dogs today, but Ill just say that having an animal around makes my life better in a lot of ways, some serious and some not so serious. At the very least, I have a live creature to talk to, so I dont look like Im talking to myself, and thats not the least of the positive effects!
® 2010 Charlaine Harris