THE YARD DOG,
Sheldon Russell ,Minotaur Books,September 2009, $24.99/C$31.99, 292pp,978-0-312-56670-8.
Hook Runyon is a railroad agent, a yard dog. His name is a nickname he inherited after an unfortunate accident left him without one arm, a prothesis instead. His job is to protect the railroad from hobos, pickpockets and other criminals. He works at the yard that is situated near Camp Alva, a POW camp in Oklahoma. He lives in a caboose, bulging with his collection of rare books, a passion which is second only to his love of shine. One day Spark Dugan, is found dead under one of the railroad cars. He is a coal picker who keeps Hook’s bin full, and this day when Hook wakes up his box is empty.
When called to investigate, he is in a quandary as he immediately notices that nothing appears right. His boss wants a quick rap up, seeing the death as an accident caused when Spark Dugan carelessly fell asleep while drunk. But when it comes time to file the paperwork for the railroad, Hook labels the cause of death, homicide. Along with his buddy and moonshine supplier Runt, he will attempt to find out what happened to Spark . He knows one thing is for sure, Spark Dugan would have never picked a railroad car to sleep under, and another puzzlement, his face in death showed no fear.
The setting inside and amid the countryside of a POW camp surrounding the railroad offers unique fresh material supported by accurate historical elements. Unforgettable characters captivate your emotions with Hook Runyan as a possible future series protagonist. World War II is brought chillingly close to home in this action packed mystery that is a white-knuckle achievement by Russell.