Book Review: The Spotted Dog by Kerry Greenwood
The Spotted Dog by Kerry Greenwood is the seventh book in the Corinna Chapman Mystery series. When a military veteran comes to Corinna’s bakery, Earthly Delights, in search of his missing dog, Corinna and Daniel try to reclaim the missing pup while steering clear of the drug runners who set everything in motion.
To enter the world of Kerry Greenwood’s Corinna Chapman mysteries is to enter a world of abundant sights, sounds, and, most of all, tastes.
For Corinna is a baker by trade, the owner of Earthly Delights, a bakery and bread shop in Melbourne, Australia. Earthly Delights is located in a modern-day Roman-style insula. Corinna is also a part-time investigator and private eye, a woman who’s determined to feed the world, or at least her corner of it, literally and metaphorically.
The Spotted Dog is the seventh in this series by Greenwood, who may be familiar to most readers as the author of the Phryne Fisher historical mysteries, which were made into a popular television series. These modern-set mysteries are not as well known but they’re of the same high-quality. (We need a television series for them, too!)
The Spotted Dog begins with a typical day for Corinna, with her rising at 4 a.m to bake the bread and thinking of her fellow residents of the Insula where they all live:
I’m the only one awake, save for my faithful apprentice, Jason, whose proud duty it is to open the bakery and get everything fixed up for my arrival. Theresa Webb, a craftsperson extraordinaire with a medical bent, would be dreaming of ladies and unicorns, while Professor Dion Monk, retired professor of classics, murmurs Juvenal’s satires in his sleep. Mrs. Dawson would be quietly smiling at reminiscences of a life well-lived in society. Trudi would be dreaming of tulips and speculaas. Meroe would be slumbering virtuously in pagan bliss, and Mrs. Pemberthy and her revolting little dog, Traddles—the only thing in Insula’s otherwise harmonious ointment—would be tossing and turning, if there was any justice in the world. Mistress Dread might be still out and about, of course; I couldn’t say. Hers is an exciting world of Bondage, Discipline and Leather which I am content to admire from a distance. In other words, all was calm, quiet, and serene.
That calmness, naturally, doesn’t last. (Or we wouldn’t have much a mystery.) A distraught, disheveled, war veteran stumbles into Earthly Delights, seeking help to find his missing dog, also a veteran of the Afghanistan war.
That plea for help causes Corinna to gather her allies, most prominently Daniel, her lover, a private eye who perhaps is also a former Mossad agent. There’s also the redoubtable Catholic nun who runs the neighborhood food-sharing service, the Maori man who serves as the protector of the food truck, and various Insula residents, including a new group of students rehearsing Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and an injured woman struggling to regain her voice and her life after an unvoiced tragedy.
There’s even an appearance by a law enforcement official or two, though they are naturally none-too-pleased at the amateur involvement.
They have some reason to be concerned for civilians, as it becomes apparent that the missing dog was kidnapped to use the skills he acquired when on duty, which includes sniffing for drugs and explosives. Those who want to use those skills are violent people, and the Insula suffers a series of break-ins, including two into Corinna’s own apartment.
Corinna’s involvement with what gradually is revealed as a gang of very bad people stretches the bounds of credulity a bit but her ability to see the humanity in everyone, especially those caught in the middle of that violent world, pulls the plot back to reality.
There are some great moments in the book, none more so than the moment when Corinna confronts an intruder in her without a stitch of clothing and armed with a frying pan. This book does a wonderful job of showing a plus-size heroine who is not only unself-conscious of her body but, in this instance, views herself as a sort of goddess.
I also enjoyed how Corinna is so unabashedly lusty for her Daniel. In the beginning of this series, she was struggling with doubts about herself, planted by her ex. But Daniel simply trusts Corinna, her skills, and her judgment, so no wonder the tall, handsome, and mysterious man is such a heady mixture for her.
If you’ve already read this series, this newest installment will more than satisfy your cravings, especially with the recipes available in the back of the book.
If you’re new to the series, The Spotted Dog can be read as a stand-alone, as all characters are introduced nicely, and the plot is tied up successfully at the end.
But, warning, it may create a craving for the rest of the books in the Corinna Chapman series.