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by Alicia Giménez-Bartlett
Translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor
Reviewed by Kate Morgan

I read police procedurals as both literary palate cleansers (an enjoyable read between other kinds of books) and as a cerebral, logic-driven escape when my life is anything but logical. I picked up Dog Day by Spanish author Alicia Giménez-Bartlett during one of these latter moments.

Set in Barcelona, Dog Day is the first in a series which features police inspector Petra Delicado, a young middle-aged, twice divorced, seasoned police detective. Her sidekick is the fifty-something, pudgy, also divorced Sgt. Fermin Garzón. The two are called on to investigate the brutal beating of a man now in the intensive care unit of the local hospital. There is little information on the man; no one has reported him missing, and, once identified, his apartment turns up few clues except his mutt of a dog. Petra, convinced the dog might assist them somehow, takes the mutt into her own home, and after the beaten man dies, she becomes a first-time dog owner. Despite some frustrating dead-end lines of investigation, the case progresses moving the investigation through the world of dogs and dog owners, and deeper into the darker side of that world. Along the way, Inspector Delicado, who has a decidedly healthy libido, is irresistably attracted to the local veterinarian she consults, and Sgt. Garzón falls in love with—not one—but two of the women dog lovers they encounter.

Dog Day is a decent police procedural, gritty but not overly so, and written with a wit usually absent from this particular genre. The twosome have the engaging and familar banter of partners who are also friends. Detectives are often portrayed with damaged or nonexisting personal lives, and these two are no exception, but I enjoyed the inclusion of Petra's dalliance and Sgt. Garzón's naive relationships entwined in the investigation. I'm not a dog owner, so the book opened up a world to me that I have not been a part of, but also showed me some of the dog-related abuses that abound (the story may not be suitable for overly sensitive dog lovers). So, when I'm not solving crime with detectives in Iceland or Sweden, or with retired or recovering detectives in the UK, I'm likely to be found in Barcelona with the next two books in the series.