Book Critique – Isle of Dogs (Brazil - Hammer Series #3)

Stars: 2 / 5

My Recommendation: Comedy, Chaos and Crime all fighting to be on top in this supposed humorous attempt by Cornwell and fell so flat that neither of the three main lines shone through and everything was lost in translation. 

Isle of Dogs is the third book in the Brazil - Hammer Series by Patricia Cornwell first published in October of 2001. The plots in this series center around the various cases handled by Judy Hammer, Chief of Police, and Andy Brazil, a young reporter turned rookie cop, in North Carolina and Virginia.

A string of highway pirates are causing chaos and mayhem leaving behind a trail of bodies. Judy Hammer and Andy Brazil have their hands full in trying to investigate these cases and find the culprits. Now the governor of Virginia, Bedford Crimm IV, announces a new system to catch people speeding using aircraft flying, with the project piloting in the island of Tangier. Both Hammer and Brazil are caught in between the political fiasco and the public reaction to it, all the while trying to investigate the highway pirates. 

I remember reading one of Patricia Cornwell's book in her Kay Scarpetta series (I fail to remember the name again!) a good 10 years ago. Her book reminded me very much of the TV show, Bones, American crime procedural drama series that centered around Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan, a forensic anthropologist, and FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth. Since I was following the TV show back then, I put aside Cornwell's books. This is a loan from my friend Patty

However, do not get confused with the 2018 American sci-fi comedy animated film Isle of Dogs with this book. Both are miles and miles apart. I wish I had watched the movie instead of reading this book though. Sorry, Patty!

Cornwell takes us on a rollercoaster ride up the political fiasco to down into the deeper trenches of paranormal elements to the medical malpractices and scams; and finally lands into the crime that the characters in the novel try to side-line it.

Cornwell also gives the readers the actual fictional blog posts that were posted on Trooper Truth website. I though she would just mention them on and off, with a few highlights of the various posts. Didn’t expect her to actually give the readers the entire blog posts as well. 

Although initially the blog posts that Trooper Truth posted in her plot, made a lot of sense, but as the book progressed, I felt they were more ramblings than something meaningful. Also Cornwell has her character writing the posts throw caution to wind by exposing their undercover aspects pretty soon. For instance, as soon as something happens around a certain character, Trooper Truth post reflects that incident. Wouldn’t the public eventually guess who Trooper Truth really was by just adding two plus two; by comparing the posts with the incidents?

It is interesting to see the various names Cornwell used for her characters - each and every name hones in to the inner nature of those characters. And the reader can guess what would be their nature, and what to expect from them, just by their name.

Cornwell introduces so many characters left and right that it was hard to keep up. And the way she wrote the whole plot also was confusing. She jumps from character to character's perspective so fast that it took a while for me as a reader to figure out, "Oh wait a minute, now she is showing us from Character B's perspective, not Character J anymore". It took almost half the book for me to get used to her way of writing.

Cornwell's other favorite character Dr. Kay Scarpetta, makes an appearance in this book. Since both series are essentially set in the same region, I would expect the characters to cross-over. Not sure if they crossed-over in all the books. Unless we read all of them we cannot confirm. 

I have never read a book where in every character in the book is eccentric including the protagonists. There is so much chaos in any side you look at the plot that it made me wonder how Cornwell kept her calm while she was having her characters wade through the thick confusion. Oh and a couple of her characters really irritated me to no end making me want to throw a book or a mountain at that person. Aargh!

Somewhere along the line in the whole chaos that Cornwell created we lost the humor part of what she was intending to write. Instead we get a mess to sift through and actually try to find what the main thread of the plot was. It does touch on the dark side of politics and the way some of the leaders manipulate not only the heads of the states but also the public. However the darker thread again gets lost in the chaos.

I remember reading her Kay Scarpetta book, but I don’t think I was put off by the book. But this one, I think by far is the worst book I ever read. Such a shame that Cornwell tried a different style of writing but fell really flat in delivering it. If you are a fan of her books, by all means go ahead and read it. However my recommendation would be to not to unless you don’t have anything better to do.

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Plot Reveals:

a. Primary Antagonists: Unique First, a teenager with special powers; Smoke and his road dogs Cat, Possum, Cuda

b. Governor's staff & Family: Press Secretary Major Trader; Trooper Thorlo Macovich; First Lady Maude Crimm; Pony, the butler; his daughters Constance, Grace, Faith and Regina; Chef Figgie; First Dog Frisky; 

c. Cornwell's character Governor Crimm wonders where the phrase "from scratch" had come from. I always wondered about the same too.

d. Tangier Island People: Ginny Crockett; Daisy Eskridge, cashier; Dipper Pruitt; Fonny Boy; Dr. Sherman Faux - visiting mainland doctor; Hurricane, Fonny's father; Buren Stringle, head of Tangier Island Watermen's Association; Mattie Dize; Reverend Crockett.

e. Other law enforcement: Detective Slipper; Sallie Landon; Prison Guard A. P. Pinn; First Responder Treata Bibb; Dr. Sawamatsu, assistant chief medical examiner; Dispatcher Betty Freakley; 

f. Trooper Truth in one his blog post talks about a case that Dr. Kay Scarpetta handled while she was a resident forensic pathologist in Dade County, FL. The only book I could find on a case similar to what Trooper Truth highlights in the blog post was the 24th book in the series titled Chaos released in 2016, a good 15 years after Isle of Dogs was published.

2. Sub-Plots: 

a. Andy Brazil starts an internet website called Trooper Truth that hosts special series of essays from Andy's world and the trooper lives in general. 

b. Andy's father was murdered when he was a child, and was left with an alcoholic mother. 

c. Judy Hammer's staff: Windy Brees, secretary; her dog named Popeye.


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