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Disciple of the Dog    by R. Scott Bakker order for
Disciple of the Dog
by R. Scott Bakker
Order:  USA  Can
Forge, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

R. Scott Bakker's Disciple of the Dog introduces smooth talking, philosophical Newark, N.J. gumshoe/con artist Disciple 'Diss' Manning to the mystery scene - and it's an impressive arrival, one that has me hoping for a speedy encore.

The seedy PI, whose total recall of every detail of his life is literally driving him crazy, is hired by wealthy Jonathan and Amanda Bonjour to find out what has happened to their missing twenty-one year old daughter Jennifer (whom Disciple immediately mentally labels Dead Jennifer). Jennifer had joined a charismatic Framers cult (whose followers believe 'the world is more than five billion years older than it is' and is about to end) 'just outside a Rust Belt town called Ruddick in southeastern Pennsylvania.'

In Ruddick, Diss interviews overwhelmed, out-of-his-depth police Chief Caleb Nolen; former Berkeley philosophy professor Xenophon Baars who founded the Framers and slept with Jennifer (Diss tells him he's living out 'guru-porn-star fantasies'); and members of the white supremacist Church of the Third Resurrection. He also has his own follower, hottie California girl/wannabe journalist Molly Modano. Molly hopes 'to break into the biz by writing an in-depth story' on Jennifer's disappearance, and tags along on Diss's investigation. She's devastated when body parts start littering the landscape.

So far the plot might be old hat, though PI Diss is anything but. However, Bakker takes it and runs with it in a shocker of a new direction that offers 'Rock for the great media pipe.' And he enlivens his noir mystery with his lead's cynical running commentary, including 'one day you wake up, and the distance between your youthful hope and your middle-aged actuality yawns like a tiger on the wrong side of the cage' and 'It isn't easy being an abbatoir.'

I'm not usually that keen on noir but want more of R. Scott Bakker's brand, and much more of Disciple Manning's unique take on life, the universe and everything in between. Disciple of the Dog is an exceptional debut with an unforgettable lead, absolutely not to be missed by mystery fans.

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