Kirkus Reviews QR Code
A NEW LEASH ON LIFE by Erna Mueller


by Erna Mueller

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2011
Publisher: Book Baby

Tough Seattle cop Lt. Spencer Watley, killed in the line of duty, is reincarnated in the body of his former police dog to redeem himself not only by nabbing the cyber-crooks responsible, but also by helping a troubled teenager face physical and emotional challenges.

This clash of genres hearkens back in many ways to Disney live-action feature comedies (and the books that inspired them) from the 1950s to the 70s. A childish retro-spirit prevails despite the modern—yet still somewhat dated—milieu of a cyberpunk-esque Seattle populated with lethal computer-hacker gangs and software/hardware pirates. Justin Andrews is a tech-savvy teenage rebel, alienated from his workaholic father, frequently in trouble at Catholic school and lonely after the death of his mother. Lt. Spencer Watley is a tough cop on the scent of a grotesque criminal dynasty named Dreck; Cruella De Vil-style Drusilla Dreck runs a robotics-oriented toy company but really schemes a vast identity-theft heist using a hot new cybernetic plaything named Robo Pooch that has been secretly upgraded with a snoopy spy chip. Watley is killed during a police pursuit—an accident that also puts bystander Justin in leg braces. But an angel in heaven grants Spencer a second chance in God’s “Jerk Redemption Program,” bringing the lawman back to Earth in the body of a purebred briard police dog (that has swallowed the Drecks’ precious spy chip) so that he can befriend Justin and battle the villains. The latter antics are so slapsticky that one expects chirpy birds and twinkling stars around the heads of the detestable Drecks and their henchmen after each gets conked in the many fight scenes. The narrative also overplays its “dead parent” hand, with fully three deceased moms and dads (and that’s just the human ones) causing lingering trauma to their bereaved offspring. Still, there are some intriguing third-act twists, and it’s possible that tween readers who find the more realistic Puppy Place and Pet Vets series too sedate will be amused by the rambunctious spirit and lively pacing. Readers and pet owners of any age should know that dog-Spencer’s habit of drinking coffee is not a canine treat recommended by veterinarians.

Cop-dog comic YA novel-fantasy doesn’t lead the pack but still may collar a following among adolescent readers.