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The Unscratchables

A book by Cornelius Kane

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Shaggy-Dog Noir

  • Jun 25, 2010
  • by
Cats and dogs don't live together in "The Unscratchables," a parody police procedural that deftly and punnily mixes the tropes of the genre with a world in which dogs are downtrodden curs segregated from the cream of cat society, but they do rub along in a way that'll raise the hairs on the back on anyone's neck.

The story is told through the color-blind eyes of Crusher McNash, a bull terrier detective for the San Bernardo Slaughter Unit. The short-tempered mutt who bears a temperamental resemblance to Mickey Spillaine's Mike Hammer goes ballistic when the possible involvement of a cat in a series of dismemberment murders he's working on gets him assigned a partner: Cassius Lap from the Feline Bureau of Investigation.

There's a lot of reasons for McNash to hate Lap. The well-bred kitty from Kathattan is intelligent, well-dressed and imperturbable. He is also Siamese, and McNash remembers how he was captured and tortured during the recent war with Siam (yeah, Kane is referencing Vietnam). And Lap, who studied dog psychology in college, knows all the right words to make McNash obey his orders.

Fans of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's books will also see a certain resemblance between Lap and their Southern-fried detective hero, FBI Special Agent Aloysius X. L. Pendegrast (in fact, it seemed like I could read his dialogue in the same cadences Scott Brick uses in his audio versions of the series).

The rest of the book follows McNash and Lap through the underbelly and behind the ears of society as they investigate the killings. They encounter the media magnate Phineas Reynard, and McNash falls hard for the fox's glamour wife that leads to an assignation in a hotel room. There's political pressure from above to drop the case as the duo works with Lap's former partner, the serial killer Quentin Riossiti (think Hannibal Lecter), as they realize that they're uncovering a conspiracy that reaches those who pull the leash.

As you can see, it's easy to get into the spirit of the book. Kane -- actually Australian literary thriller writer Anthony O'Neill -- peppers puns and animal-associated words in every page, and his freshness and inventiveness is on a part with Jasper Fforde.

I don't know if McNash and Lap will return, and while the reader in me hopes so, the writer in me hopes not. Kane has created a perfect mix of noir and parody, that it would be a shame to dilute it with sequels. "The Unscratchables" is a shaggy-dog story with not a flea on its glossy coat.

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review by . July 23, 2009
I know, many others have added their own puns in the titles but after reading this book, it's kind of hard to not include some.    As many have stated, this book is full of puns but with a good storyline behind it. The puns occasionally get in the way of the story but after awhile, you get used to thinking of them as normal.    It reminds me of Garrison Keiler on NPR doing Guy Noir, Private Eye.    It is written in the style of the old …
review by . July 12, 2009
On the back cover of The Unscratchables by Cornelius Kane , the book is declared a "hard-bitten crime story and a sharp-fanged satire," but I must say that my most enjoyable feelings while reading the book was a fun comedy. The satire is there, sure, but many readers that enjoy the unusual will be carefully reading every word, to enjoy how the author has wonderfully translated the human world into "animal-speak"! Sometimes I smiled, sometimes I grinned, and sometimes I even laughed as characters …
About the reviewer
Bill Peschel ()
Ranked #482
Bill Peschel was born in 1960 in Ohio, and grew up there and in North Carolina. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A. in journalism. At The Avalon Hill Game Company … more
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Starred Review. Det. Max Crusher McNash, a fearless bull terrier in the slaughter unit of the San Bernardo police dog force, must overcome his distrust of special agent Cassius Lap, a very Zen Siamese of the FBI (Feline Bureau of Investigation), in their pursuit of a serial killer cat targeting dogs in this off-the-leash hard-boiled satire from the pseudonymous Kane. The fur begins flying when two rottweilers are torn apart. Later victims include a retriever attending a museum shindig, movie star Jack Russell Crowe and a newshound. Crusher and Cassius deal with gangsta hounds as well as visit Kathattan, an island where dogs are unwelcome, and Cattica Correctional Facility, where convicted murderer Quentin Riossiti, a debonair psycho cat, offers his help for a price. Billed as a well-known Australian author, Kane offers plenty of tongue-in-muzzle insights into bestial behavior, political chicanery and assorted foxy topics.(July)
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ISBN-10: 1416596410
ISBN-13: 978-1416596417
Author: Cornelius Kane
Publisher: Scribner

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