What could be more featherweight than a tale of dognapping? How about a dognapping whose victim is already dead and buried?
Not that you asked, but Coco Butternut was the beloved pet of Jimmy Farmer’s late mother. Jimmy was very attached to the parent who left him a big chunk of the mortuary, cemetery, and pet cemetery she owned, and she was very attached to her prize dachshund. Nothing was too good for Coco Butternut, even after she died, so Ms. Farmer had her mummified and buried on the premises. Now someone has dug up the dead pooch and is holding her for ransom, and Jimmy wants Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, in their capacity as operatives for the detective agency owned and operated by Hap’s lover, Brett Sawyer (Honky Tonk Samurai, 2016), to exchange a satchel of cash for the purloined coffin. What could possibly go wrong? There are only two indications that the assignment may be less routine than Jimmy’s indicated: the satchel, when Hap and Leonard pick its lock, turns out to be stuffed with $100,000, which seems a mite high for even the nicest dead dog in the world; and the coffin, when they exchange the cash for it with a masked man in yet another cemetery, seems a mite big to hold nothing but a dachshund. Mulling over the implications of their peek inside the coffin, Hap and Leonard report back to their client and find him beaten to death—a sure indication that there’s more at stake here than the eternal repose of Coco Butternut.
This bite-sized addition to Lansdale’s droll franchise gives his two heroes little room for their trademark back-and-forth banter. But the slide from fizzy East Texas comedy to deeper waters is so deftly managed that you’ll be chuckling all the way to the graveyard.