Dash and Dingo, by Catt Ford and Sean Kennedy
A first-rate adventure/romance — enthusiastically recommended
Story blurb: Stodgy British archivist Henry Percival-Smythe slaves away in the dusty basement of Ealing College in 1934, the only bright spot in his life his obsession with a strange Australian mammal, the thylacine. It has been hunted to the edge of extinction, and Henry would love nothing more than to help the rare creature survive.
Then a human whirlwind spins through his door. Jack “Dingo” Chambers is also on the hunt for the so-called “Tasmanian Tiger,” although his reasons are far more altruistic. Banding together, Dingo and the newly nicknamed Dash travel half way around the globe in their quest to save the thylacine from becoming a footnote in the pages of biological history.
Review by Gerry Burnie
When I first selected “Dash and Dingo” by Catt Ford and Sean Kennedy [Dreamspinner Press, 2009] for review, the thing that caught my eye was the unusual and attention-grabbing title. That was the first unique aspect about this work. The next was the setting—Australia and Tasmania—and the totally unique story line; a search for the now-extinct species of carnivorous marsupial called a Thylacine.
This assured me that there was a plot there, and it didn’t take long to discover that it was a very worthy one indeed.
As the story blurb describes, Henry “Dash” Percival-Smythe is a rather bookish archivist whose life is as ordered as his archive. Yet, the fact that he secretly rebels against his father’s, and mother’s, hidebound adherence to what is ‘proper’ in ‘polite society,’ suggest that he is ready to burst his shell if only the opportunity would arise.
Enter Jack “Dingo” Chambers; a Crocodile-Dundee-like character with an irreverent, roguish nature—i.e. the perfect foil for Percival-Smythe’s reticent character.
Both characters are cleverly developed to play off one another until love occurs, almost inevitably. Nevertheless, it grows (evolves) at just the right pace, as it should to be credible, and in the process Dash does as well. In fact, following his development is one of the most delightful aspects of the story; A metamorphosis of sorts.
Part of that development is heading off with Dingo to the wilds of Tasmania, but not by a slow, mundane steamer. Rather, they brave a certain amount of risk by flying there aboard a mail-carrier plane. A symbolic start to the adventures to come.
In Australia we are introduced to the Chambers, Dingo’s parents, and the marked contrast between them and the Percival-Smythes. We also meet Clarence Hodges, the determined and relentless villain, who at first blush is merely an enemy of the Tasmanian Tiger. However, as the story unfolds we find that Tassie is merely a surrogate for a deeper animosity.
From there on adventure abounds, sometimes humorous and sometimes perilous, until a final showdown involving both the Thylacine and Hodges. Romance also blossoms, and the coupling is both romantic and sexy. However, gratefully, it merely compliments the story without dominating it.
Although this is a collaboration, the dual-effort is seamless. Moreover the writing is executed at a very high level throughout; the dialogue is lively, and the vocabulary is consistent with the times and cultures.
Where I found room to quibble was with Hodges’ motivation that caused him to be so sinister. A rationale is given, which is plausible enough, but it somehow doesn’t measure up to the obsessive hate exhibited by the man.
Apart from that, I found this story to be a first-rate adventures/romance. Enthusiastically recommended. Four-and-one-half stars.
Progress report, and a new start. Coming of Age on the Trail is in the hands of the editor. In the meantime I have made a start of number four: The Brit, The Cupid, and Petunia (a tentative title). Read a brief passage, here. Comments welcome.
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