Dogs aren’t the only victims of upstate New York’s latest murderer, but they’re certainly the most perplexing.
For alcoholic college professor Eliot Conte (The Accidental Pallbearer, 2012), who finds Herman Melville even more perplexing than the cases he once worked as a private eye, this new mystery is as overwhelming as a great white whale. Even if someone has a grudge against Detective Robert Rintrona, the Troy cop who partnered with Detective Catherine Cruz before she moved into Conte’s place in Utica, why, after wounding Bobby, would the shooter go on to kill his dog, Aida? Why would someone fatally shoot Utica police chief Antonio Robinson’s Jack Russell terrier and not his wife, Millicent, who was walking the dog at the time? And what could this wave of attacks on the canine community possibly have to do with the disappearance of Mirko Ivanovic, Conte’s star student, a Bosnian Muslim who’s suddenly suspected of terrorism? Readers worried that the violence may remain low-stakes will find reassurance in the rising human body count, beginning with bigoted liquor store owner Freddy Barbone and continuing when Mirko’s parents, placed under arrest by Homeland Security, apparently commit suicide in the cell they’ve obligingly been given to share.
Lentricchia (Literature/Duke; The Book of Ruth, 2005, etc.) writes great scenes and sentences, and several of the characters—especially a tough-girl bodyguard, a right-wing radio ranter and Conte’s precocious 13-year-old neighbor—are keepers. Just don’t expect a rush of satisfaction when this scruffy, elegiac dance comes to an end.