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Monday 28 December 2015

‘The Dead Dog Day’ by Jackie Kabler

Published by Accent Press,
2 November 2015.
ISBN: 9781783752270 (PB)

Sometimes a murder mystery novel is exactly that: there’s a murder, and the protagonist, detective or amateur sleuth, sets about solving the mystery of whodunnit.

And sometimes it’s... not. There’s certainly a murder in The Dead Dog Day, and animal lovers will be relieved to know the victim is not the dog. Jeanette Kendrick, the abrasive and highly unpopular editor of a morning TV show, plummets to her death from a seventh-floor window in chapter one, and all the signs are that she didn’t go willingly. The aftermath of the killing is threaded through the rest of the narrative and is eventually solved, but the detective in charge of the case is far from centre stage, and the main protagonist makes no attempt to be an amateur sleuth.

The author is better known as a TV presenter, and worked on a well-known morning show for a number of years, so she knows her subject. The narrative follows Cora Baxter and her technical team for several months, as they rush up and down the country in the small hours chasing quirky stories, with brief respites in her home in Cheltenham or London where the programme is based. The quirky stories are highly entertaining, as are the rivalries and friendships and the unlikely romance between Cora and an action-man hero of another TV show – but the crime-solving seems to take second place.

Occasional scenes at the police station, or between Cora and DCI Adam Bradberry, the SIO on the case, keep the murder in focus; several suspects are eliminated quite quickly; and some vital evidence which Cora chooses not to disclose to Adam proves to be rather important towards the end. But as murder mystery plots go, this one was a tad thin on actual investigation and suspense.

That said, the showbiz and TV studio background comes to vivid life, and the characters are lively and believable. There is a clear narrative line; and the book is a diverting page-turner, pacy and well-written, well sprinkled with amusing vignettes, some of which are so unlikely that they have to be based on real events. When the denouement finally comes, with scant help from the police (and none at all from Cora, it has to be said), it all fits together and makes perfect sense. It’s a fun read, though possibly not one for crime fiction purists who prefer the murder investigation to take pride of place.

The dog, in case you’re wondering, died of natural causes.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Jackie Kabler worked as a newspaper reporter and then in television news for twenty years, including nearly a decade on GMTV. She later appeared on BBC and ITV news, presented a property show for Sky, hosted sports shows on Setanta Sports News and worked as a media trainer for the Armed Forces. She is now a presenter on shopping channel QVC. Jackie lives in Gloucestershire with her husband, who is a GP.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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