This cost me 10p in the big library clear-out, and while I was reading it, I went back and forth on whether it was worth more, or perfect as a library book. I’m still undecided.
So He Takes The Dog is the story of how one day, in a quiet southern English town, a homeless man is found dead, and how the police are trying to piece together his life in order to get to the bottom of the crime. Henry had been hanging around town for years, but nobody knew anything about him other than that he was odd, if helpful enough, and seemed to do nothing but walk along the beach and mutter to himself. The police officers in charge quickly realise that finding out anything about such an elusive character’s life is quite difficult. Slowly, they track down the few people who had ever known him, and uncover a secret from Henry’s past that may or may not explain his life and death.
Several things about this novel are strange, some deliberate, some not. It quickly becomes clear that just like there is no coherent backstory for Henry, the plot is a bit of a meandering mess. One officer’s private life slowly moves into the focus of the story, and it never becomes clear why this is. The officer himself does not take the form of an omniscient narrator, but rather talks a bit about himself here, stoically describes the drudgery of day-to-day police work there, slips into his colleague’s head and recounts his memories somewhere else. It’s hard to know who knows what when it takes a while to even establish whose point of view we’re taking. Eventually, I either got used to it, or the plot become more straightforward. In any case, the novel turned into a quick read.
A fulfilling read, or even just a pleasant one, it was not. Not because of any gory details (there weren’t any), or because it turns out the crime is never solved (by the time you realise that, you have stopped caring anyway). The characters just never really come to life, and the emotionless way in which the case is described makes it hard to connect with anyone. I don’t doubt that this is deliberate on the part of the author – the main character does suffer from disillusionment and the realisation that his life has turned sour. Jonathan Buckley has done everything right in his way. The language mirrors the characters’ sense of displacement and a kind of spiritual homelessness – which brings the story full circle. It’s all very neat and interesting, but you can only get through so much coldness before you stop caring altogether. Interesting? Maybe. A book you might like? Probably not.