A review copy was generously provided by St. Martin’s Press
I am a huge dog fan – I have my own pampered pooch who I dote on all day, every day. When St Martin’s Press approached me about reviewing an upcoming mystery about a dog trainer and his cadaver dogs, I was immediately sold. Bonus points: there’s an adorable dog on the cover. The Finders by Jeffrey B. Burton was an exciting mystery, with some underdeveloped characters and half-baked explanations.
Mason “Mace” Reid lives on the outskirts of Chicago and specializes in human remains detection. He trains dogs to hunt for the dead. Reid’s coming off a taxing year—mourning the death of a beloved springer spaniel as well as the dissolution of his marriage. He adopts a rescue dog with a mysterious past—a golden retriever named Vira. And when Reid begins training Vira as a cadaver dog, he comes to realize just how special the newest addition to his family truly is…
Suddenly, Reid and his prize pupil find themselves hurled into a taxing murder case, which will push them to their very limits. Paired with determined Chicago Police Officer Kippy Gimm, Mace must put all his trust in Vira’s abilities to thwart a serial killer who has now set his sights on Mace himself.
The mystery of this book was heightened by the rotating points of view (POV) – especially with the clashing points of view between Mason and the villain. Most of the book was told from Mason’s POV, but every now and again we would get a chapter in the POV of the mysterious bad guy. The best part was that as readers, we got a peek into the head of the villain, but we weren’t given their identity until the very end of the book. Learning how a villain ticks without knowing who they are was a unique story tool that I had never experienced in a book before. One thing that this book was missing, however, was significant insight into how the villain became the evil person they were – how they had become a depraved human and what backstory lead up to this point.
From a plot standpoint, Jeffrey B. Burton wrote a story that was well paced and used time jumps strategically. The story was a series of murders, all interconnected by one mysterious figure who somehow has a part in each death that Mason and his cadaver dogs are involved with. There were also strategically used action scenes that were well written and heart pounding interspersed throughout the plot.
It was a little hard to look past the seemingly magical powers that the dog, Vira, had in this book. In The Finders, Vira is a golden retriever with a troubled past who has been trained as a cadaver dog. During her burgeoning career finding murder victims’ bodies, she had amassed a near stellar track record – there was no body Vira couldn’t find. Unfortunately, The Finders took this track record a step too far for me, when suddenly Vira could identify a murderer in a crowd with no physical evidence (ie. blood, bodies, murder weapons, etc). The book gave a few hypotheses about why Vira could identify murderers, but none of them were concrete enough for me to accept. This seemingly magical power made it hard for me to get immersed in and get truly invested in the story. I hope that in later entries to the series, Vira’s ability is explained.
Mason was a loner dog trainer, specializing in training cadaver dogs. Ultra-dedicated to his dogs, Mason lead a very solitary life – he had recently gone through a divorce and was in a dark time, when his newest dog, Vira, walked into his life. This left a ton of room for character growth – which Mason mostly realized.
Kippy was a spunky cop who found Vira during her job as a police officer. Kippy, as a character, was fairly underdeveloped. She had the potential to be a true partner in crime solving for Mason, but she was mostly kept around as a potential love interest. I wish she had had more of an impact on the story and had been involved in more critical scenes – it felt like her background of being a police officer was wasted. Hopefully in the next book her role will grow. The dogs themselves were their own characters – I loved reading about their pack dynamics and how loyal they were to Mason. My favorite was Sue by far – a majestic pack leader who ran the household with an iron fist but was really a softie deep down.
The Finders by Jeffrey B. Burton was a fun take on a serial mystery novel – it had some fun twists and turns, but it was also missing some explanations about Vira’s abilities and character development for Kippy. While The Finders wasn’t my favourite mystery of all time, I am looking forward to the next book in the Mace Reid K-9 Mystery series. I hope the next book gives readers more answers about Vira’s gifts at identifying murderers and that we get to see more of Kippy and her interactions with Mace. 3/5