Metzger's Dog by Thomas Perry: A review

Metzger's DogMetzger's Dog by Thomas Perry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Leroy Chinese Gordon (Wonderful name!) is a bit of an idiot savant, minor criminal, tool and die guy who lives in Los Angeles. He has lovingly hand-built his own anti-aircraft gun and mounted it in the back of his Ford van. He has two close friends who have particular skills (lockpicking and sharpshooting) and who comprise his "gang." He has a beautiful (Of course!) and smart (Surprisingly!) girlfriend named Margaret. Chinese himself is ruled by his roommate, Dr. Henry Metzger, a cat.

Chinese learns of experiments with cocaine that are being done by the University of Los Angeles. The University has a large store of the white stuff and Chinese makes a plan to steal it.

He and his cohorts are successful in grabbing the cocaine, but while they are on site, Chinese overhears a professor talking to a visitor about something very valuable that is in his office. He doesn't exactly say what this "something" is, but Chinese is intrigued. He decides to go rogue. He breaks into the professor's office and takes a locked box which is the only thing there that looks like it could possibly be valuable.

When the box is opened later, it is found to contain only papers. But what papers!

That professor had been conducting field experiments in psychological warfare for the CIA, no less. The papers in the box were his detailed reports of his findings and, essentially, contained instructions on how to wage psywar and how to bring a city to its knees. These are papers that the CIA will want back very badly.

After their caper at the university, the Gordon gang drives to a junkyard while attempting to evade the authorities. At the junkyard, through a series of events too complicated to explain here, they meet the iconic junkyard dog, a huge, black brute that does his best to devour them, and they kidnap him. Problem is no one can control the dog. That is until they get him home and he meets Dr. John Metzger. The cat takes charge of the dog. Thus, Metzger's Dog.

This is my first experience in reading a Thomas Perry novel. This particular book was first published in 1983 but was reissued in the early 2000s with a foreword by Carl Hiaasen. I read the Kindle edition which included the foreword, and, a few sentences in, Hiaasen had me laughing out loud. I thought if the book maintained the same level of humor I was in for a real treat. I was not disappointed.

The book is full of nutty characters, including many in the CIA. It is wonderfully creative and manages, in addition to the humor, to convey some clever insights into people and bureaucracies and the way they work. It is a real comic tour de force.

Most of the book has Gordon, along with his partners in crime and his girlfriend, trying to find a way to convince the CIA to turn over five million dollars in ransom in return for the papers. The CIA, unfortunately, is led by a couple of dolts, who are convinced that they are dealing with some foreign terrorist organization, and they keep trying to take that organization out while failing to deliver the money. The toll of dead bodies mounts - mostly bad guys, I should note, and none of them the actual culprits.

There is a cadre of old hands at the CIA who realize what is going on and that their leaders are screwing things up. They decide to take matters into their own hands.

The stunts that the gang pull along the way kept me smiling and chuckling. I wouldn't say the book is laugh-out-loud-Dave-Barry funny, but it is amusing. The writing is subtle. The banter between characters is sharp. All in all, it was a fun read and a nice introduction to the work of Thomas Perry. I think I'll be visiting him again.

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  1. Your review had me laughing at these characters. Good job, Dorothy!

  2. I was just reading about those CIA experiments in an article in the Believer magazine. Supposedly one of the unwitting victims became the Unabomber. Of course that is not funny, but the book you reviewed sounds like it sure is.

    1. The experiments here were completely a product of Perry's imagination, just like the amateur criminals who stumbled upon the evidence, but no doubt there are psychologists and sociologists who study such things.


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