Metzger's Dog


Thomas Perry


Mystery / Thriller


Date Reviewed:

February 3, 2010

he blurbs for this book call it wonderfully funny. It even has an introduction by reknown comedy writer Carl Hiaasen. But I did not find it the least bit funny. Not even amusing. I am not saying it was a bad book, I am just saying it isn't a funny one. I only picked this book up because it was on a recommended reading list by Nancy Pearl, chief librarian here in Seattle.

This is the story of Chinese Gordon, a criminal. He is also a machinist. In his garage he constructs a heavy artillery weapon, and also manufactures the ammunition that it will fire. Why he devoting so much effort into making such a weapon is unclear, but it proves to be handy when blowing up a guard shack. (Through out the book, Gordon and his cohorts perform lots of crimes - but Perry is careful to make sure our anti-heroes don't kill anyone. So when the shack is pulverized by the automatic cannon, the security guard escapes with his life. But not because Gordon made sure no one would get hurt, only because it would ruin Perry's description of our lovable anti-social if he started gunning down innocent security guards.)

The CIA wants to get the stolen document back. But they also want to punish Gordon, rather than just paying him a ransom. Naturally, things go badly because of course the CIA is staffed with incompetents and stupid people. The result is a lot of violence. People die. True, it isn't Gordon who is pulling the trigger, but he is the guy responsible for putting all of this in motion. And why does Gordon do this stuff any way? It's not like he needs the money. Many other reviewers apparently love Chinese Gordon, but I did not. I confess, I was disappointed by the end of novel - I was rather hoping that the CIA would whacked Gordon and his buddies.

Maybe when this book was written (1983), it was funnier to think about a gang of anti-socials shutting down the city of Los Angeles as one big joke. But today the idea of someone attacking a major city (Chinese Gordon and his gang block several key freeway intersections, as well as disable the central telephone exchange) in exchange for money is not a very funny idea. (Again, Perry is careful to show no one dying in these escapades by Gordon - after all, they are such charming rogues! Why doesn't the bad ol' CIA just give them the money?)

There are quite a few unlikely coincidences in this story, such as Gordon being inside the UCLA office building just when the CIA guys walk past - and then breaking into just the right office to find the research study.

The subplot about the cat, named Dr Metzger, and the rabid junkyard Doberman, didn't make any sense, and added nothing to the story. We are told that the cat can apparently transport itself in and out of sealed garages (and a genius like Chinese Gordon can't figure out how he does it). We are told that the cat can tame a howling Doberman, apparently with a magic stare, and from then on the dog is an affectionate and dutiful puppy. Why was any of this material added to the story? Perhaps for comic effect, but I did not find it funny, I thought it was so unrealistic it ruined some of the story believability. And why name the book after the crazed dog? The dog has nothing to do with the main storyline.

Perry is a professional story teller, this book moves along quickly. I just didn't like the characters and I found the plot preposterous.