In this cupcake of a novel, a pug helps solve an art heist at the Met.
Hope McNeill finally gets to show off Max at work (though she smuggles him to work everyday in his own Sherpa bag) at a fundraiser at the Metropolitan Museum of Art called “Pug Night.” A soiree conceived to ingratiate an eccentric patron, pugs are running through the great halls of the Met, providing the perfect diversion for a heist. Before returning home, Hope checks her workstation (she’s a restoration artist for the museum) and finds a Fantin-Latour painting of pansies propped against the door. On closer inspection, she discovers it’s a forgery, and the spot where the real painting should be hanging on exhibit is empty. She calls her boss Elliot and the PR guy Gil, but oh, there is something suspicious afoot. Both Elliot and Gil insist that they hush up the theft and hire a private detective, a move that strikes Hope as peculiar (shouldn’t they notify the police, or at least the museum directors?), but as they hang the forgery on the gallery wall Hope decides to crack the case herself, as it’s becoming clear that Elliot and Gil suspect her. With the help of Daphne Markham, the elderly guest of honor at the Met’s “Pug Night,” Hope begins piecing the clues together. This is easier than one would expect because someone is actually sending Hope the clues. Like a scavenger hunt, Hope is traipsing through the museum, using her fine arts knowledge to follow one clue to the next, as she gets closer to the thief. And of course Max helps by growling at important moments. There is a subplot involving Hope’s boyfriend, a lawyer in Africa doing aid work, but the important couple in this novel is Hope and little Max, sniffing out clues until they discover the authentic Fantin-Latour.Though there have been plenty of fine dog-centered books (Virginia Woolf’s Flush and J.R. Ackerley’s My Dog Tulip come to mind), silliness reigns in this slight detective story.