Publisher Revives Missing Dog Mystery

Sleeping Dog. By Dick Lochte. Brash Books.

The success of self-publishing meant that books no longer have an expiration date. Authors have a chance of rescuing their out-of-print books and giving them a chance to find a new audience. But should they? In the case of Dick Lochte’s missing dog mystery “Sleeping Dog” (Brash Books), the answer is definitely yes. The slightly skewed story of a world-weary Los Angeles P.I. helping a precocious girl find her missing dog reads as fresh as when it was released in 1985.

In the pantheon of L.A. detectives, put Leo Bloodworth down alongside Sam Spade, only older and more broken-down ? with a dickey ticker and not much of a fighter. Late in his life, the former LAPD cop is only interested in doing his job with a minimum of damage. When his ex-partner on the force sends the girl to Leo on her rollerblades ? this is 1985, remember ? the last thing he wants is a clever boots and a small-change case, and he sends her along to the guy he shares to office with.

Then that guy gets himself killed. Someone thinks Bloodworth knew about the dodgy stuff he was up to. His home and office are tossed, and he gets beaten up. Somehow, the missing dog is part of the mystery. Leo has to get on the case, if only to keep what’s left of his health.

At 14, Serendipity Dahlquist is smart enough to be believable and so adorable you want to protect her. Her missing-dog case is complicated by her straying mother, her soap-opera actress grandmother, and a TV comic gunning to be the next Bob Hope. There is also an encounter with organized dog fights that might upset some animal lovers.

“Sleeping Dog” is also worth reading for its clever backstory. After the blood dried, both Leo and Serendipity wrote tell-all books which an unscrupulous publisher combined into one over their objections. The result is a story told in two distinctive voices, with some events retold Rashomon-style.

“Sleeping Dog” comes from Brash Books, a new publishing house dedicated to bringing back the best mysteries and thrillers of the past. It was a notable debut for Lochte, winning the Nero Wolfe Award and shortlisted for the Edgar, Shamus and Anthony. The New York Times made it one of their books of the year. Three decades later, their judgments are still on the money.