The Little Dog Laughed - Joseph Hansen
Brandstetter # 8
We step up a notch in this Brandstetter novel from crime to war. Daveís investigation of the death of a foreign correspondent takes him into the dangerous world of South American politics and he has to call on the help of an old army colleague, now a powerful secret service boss, to save him.
Increasingly, Dave is feeling his age in these novels: the occasional ache or pain, knowing he canít jump a fence like he once would have done. His compensation is Cecil, his young black lover who moved in with him in the last novel.
Cecil has gone back to reporting and is absent in much of this book, and at the end we find out why. Itís a huge shock to the system and one of the worst cliff hangers yet. I seized up Early Graves so quickly I didnít even wait to write this review. Excellent, complex novel but one where I still canít help but like the human elements between Dave and Cecil best.
This is a frustrating book because Dave & Cecil appear to spend most of the time apart, with other people or too tired to do more than eat, chat briefly and sleep.† The story covers only a few days, and Cecil is working double shifts.† The focus is the clash between Daveís desire to protect Cecil and the younger manís need for independence.† And itís got a twist at the end I really did not see coming that left me reeling with shock and denial.
Adam Streeter was a successful foreign correspondent found shot dead in his expensive condo, with a gun in his hand.† Suicide according to the police, but 17 year old Chrissie says her father wasnít depressed.† He was working on a big story about a country in Central America where Communist rebels were trying to usurp the government.† Streeterís friends say heíd never leave his blind daughter to the mercy of an alcoholic mother who abandoned them both.† The journalistís papers are missing, and the man in police custody doesnít have them so Dave knows heís not the killer.
As in Nightwork, Dave worries about Cecil.† The everyday details of a long-term relationship (5 years now) are beautifully drawn, very real.† Cecil is his sounding board and his escape.† Sometimes, though Dave is overly protective, almost paternal, he fails to appreciate just how much Cecil worries about him.† Still, that goes both ways.
The night Streeter died heíd been at the TV station where Cecil was working on the murder of an unknown Latino kid. Dave is frantic when he doesnít get home until 3:00 a.m., torn between sleepless worry and reluctance to be overprotective.† Meanwhile Cecil frets about Daveís workaholic habits and nicotine addiction.† Theyíre quite a pair.† Dave wants Cecil with him more, but the younger man has a career to build.† When Cecil gets angry with Dave I was right behind him.† Why should Cecil make sacrifices Dave isnít prepared to make himself?† Dave lives on the thrill of danger, and when heís working nothing else matters.† Cecil isnít like that, and Dave needs him more than heíll admit.† Sometimes Dave exasperates me so much I know just how Cecil feels!
The complex plot ranges from far death squads to the plight of illegal migrant workers.† The story has resonance: these days Communism isnít the enemy, but the US government is still intervening around the globe, and Oliver North-like character Lothrop Zorn, retired marine colonel all too believable.
Dave lets slip some fascinating details about his youth, and there are some nice moments of personal time with Cecil- never enough though.† This is classic Hansen.†