Thursday, April 25, 2013

'So He Takes the Dog' by Jonathan Buckley

25 April 2013

I had not heard of the author Jonathan Buckley before reading a piece about him The Guardian a few weeks ago which described his 2006 novel ‘So He Takes the Dog’ as a masterpiece. Intrigued I got hold of the unabridged audio recording of the book (narrated by Richard Burnip). It’s an interesting novel which tells a relatively straightforward tale in a slightly odd way. ‘So He Takes the Dog’ recounts a murder investigation in a small North Devon town. It is more of a police procedural than a murder mystery. We follow the detectives as they piece together a picture of the life of a homeless man whose body is found on the beach. Searching backwards through the dead man’s life to understand how he came to be homeless and the origins of his odd behaviour reminded me of ‘Stuart: A Life Backwards’ by Alexander Masters (reviewed here in August 2010). As the novel progresses, however, you begin to wonder whether it is really about the murder or whether the main story is that of the police officer narrating the tale. And I gradually realised that the odd tone (possibly even more noticeable in the audio version) was due to the fact that his first person narration seems to deliberately avoid ever using the words “I” or “me”. The police officer tells us his name and is happy to refer to himself and his colleague as “we” but never talks about himself in the first person. I began to suspect that this was going to prove incredibly significant but, unless I missed something, we are never told why he has chosen to tell the story in this odd way. I’m not sure I would call ‘So He Takes the Dog’ a masterpiece but I enjoyed reading it.



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