Gale Buchalter / Rhodesdale Press / 316 pages
Friday Night Fighters is not for the faint of heart. Readers of mysteries know going in there will be a murder or two, but they may find the abuse of animals more disturbing. There is a good bit of both in Friday Night Fighters, but all in the service of shining a spotlight on the dog fighting underworld. Author Gail Buchalter has clearly done her homework; she writes with authority—if sometimes a bit too much detail—about everything from the finer points of a necropsy to the work of local shelters to the brutal underbelly of dog fighting. On occasion, otherwise snappy prose gets bogged down by too much procedural description more appropriate for a professional webinar, or by over-itemization of a setting—such as the placement of chairs or the composition of the table legs. Readers may be tempted to skip ahead to get to the main attraction: a fairly taut tale about an animal-fighting ring on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and the disturbing mystery of why previously rescued dogs are winding up back in the pit. The first-person narration does dilute some of the suspense, but the dialogue is often sharp and serious; the characters are noble but not without flaws, and are drawn well enough to make the reader care about (or hate) them, as the situation warrants. In typical genre fashion, the main character, forensic veterinarian Allison Reeves, takes a beating—and makes a few mistakes—but doggedly pursues the case.