Disclaimer: I was sent an ARC copy of this book by the author, Doug Goodman, for an honest review
Plot: Angie Graves is a Search and Rescue volunteer and a human remains dog handler. She and her Labrador Retriever, Waylon, make a good cadaver dog team that searches for lost remains in Colorado. But ever since the dead began to walk, there has been a need for tracking and capturing them. The city of Jack Calf believes Angie may be the answer. Angie is not so sure. She needs a different dog, for starters, and the only one available is a dog named Murder who she rescued off the highway. He is ornery, defensive, and obsessive, but if they can work together, they may be the best answer to the zombie plague.
Opinion: This is a pretty quick read, only about 130 pages, but don’t let that keep you from reading it. For how short this story is, it is PACKED with detail and suspense. If you are like me, I have never read a book or heard much information about cadaver dogs (dogs that are trained to find dead humans, as well as sniff out bombs or track). The fact that this author, Doug Goodman, is actually a volunteer for search and rescues and is a human remains dog handler…makes this story feel almost too realistic. But in the best way possible.
“Training a dog to track a zombie is like training a cadaver dog or a bomb dog. It takes patience, trust, and the right dog-and-handler team. And to not be afraid of zombies.”
-Angie Graves, The Zombie Dog’s Handbook
This story starts out with the reader meeting our main character, Angie, who is brought to an investigation where a dead body was reported to be seen. Angie and her cadaver dog, Waylon, start their search for the dead body, but instead come across a zombie. The zombies in this story are unlike any other zombies you have read about. These corpses are controlled by the Crimson Wasps, who attach their stingers to the skulls of the dead bodies to control them. Not only are these wasps highly dangerous, but a theory has been made by Dr. Saracen of Animal Control that the wasps are kidnapping children and the elderly to use them as food for the larvae of the wasps. Now Angie must train one of her dogs, a black and blue dog named Murder that she found on the side of the road, to track the zombies and save a young girl that was kidnapped.
It is not very often that you find (or in my case are given) a book that can so effortlessly combine real-life traits and experiences, twist them into something right off of a Hollywood movie set, and then deliver it in a way that makes it almost frightening because it is so believable. I fully enjoyed this read, and wasn’t bored once. The “downtime” in books can sometimes get me uninterested where I either skip ahead or put the book down, but this author knew just how to keep the less exciting events…eventful. I loved that I was learning about the training of cadaver dogs while enjoying a fictional novel, I almost feel like a professional dog trainer now 😉 . Not only does the reader get inside experience into how these dogs train, but we also learn how their sense of smell is used as to work like a brain to problem solve and search. So cool.
The style of writing that Doug Goodman has is, to put it best, simple but eloquent. He has this amazing way of using his fantastic vocabulary where the reader doesn’t get lost and say to themselves, Wait, what?! He has great comparisons, the right amount of detail, and some very enjoyable humor throughout the book:
“Labs were a special kind of stupid. Case in point, Murder was smart enough to recognize the danger and wake her up, but then he started dancing around the fire-out of harm’s distance-with all the attention-hounding of a rump shaker in a rap video.”
“Nice dog. What breed is he?”
Another thing I noticed while reading, was the author doesn’t start out by going into full detail of the age and appearance of Angie. Usually authors love to put their character in front of a mirror at the beginning of their story, make them look at themselves, and then think about their own appearance. This author went a different route entirely, he dropped little clues throughout the book about what Angie looks like, but didn’t start to mention what her age MIGHT be until about the second half of the book. Even then, he doesn’t give you a straight answer, which I thought was pretty refreshing. One last thing, and I swear I’ll shut up 😉 . The fact of naming a dog Murder, that just happened to turn out being a zombie hunter, was genius. The way he got his name Murder was clever and original, I feel in love with this goofy dog that was obsessed with his toy chicken.
If you still aren’t sure about reading this book, JUST DO IT. Live a little. This was a very different book from what I usually stick to reading, but I am SO glad that I read it. If you enjoy zombies, dogs, fictional adventure, or a little horror…read this. You will be so happy that you did, and better yet, there is going to be a sequel! 🙂