The Unscratchables (Thorndike Mystery)

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9781410418609: The Unscratchables (Thorndike Mystery)

CRUSHER McNASH is the police force's most fearless detective, a barrel-chested bull terrier with a biscuit-thin temper and a barbed-wire tongue.

CASSIUS LAP is the finest agent in the Feline Bureau of Investigation, an imperturbable Siamese with a mind as sharp as a can opener.

SAN BERNARDO is their territory, a seething metropolis where fat-cats prance in the exclusive island enclave of Kathattan while working dogs wallow in the stinking squalor of the Kennels.

When a couple of Rottweiler gangsters are brutally murdered, Crusher McNash tries to convince himself that it's nothing unusual -- just another underworld territorial dispute. But after the sniffer squad identifies a feral-cat killer, McNash is forced to do the unthinkable -- team up with a prissy Siamese from the FBI. The trail leads from junkyards to gambling dens, from cat prisons to baronial estates, in the process unraveling an awesome conspiracy involving domination techniques, population control, and the megalomaniacal ambitions of fox media magnate Phineas Reynard.

Both a hard-bitten crime story and a sharp-fanged satire, The Unscratchables is the genre-bending mystery of the year.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Cornelius Kane is the pseudonym adopted for a well-known Australian author.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

THE JANGLER STARTED ringing as soon as I nudged open the door. But it was already past ten p.m. and I'd been on my legs for over twelve hours. I only wanted to flop.

I went to the kitchen cupboard and got out a can of Chump's. I peeled it open with a fancy electric gizmo -- something I'd snared in a squad raffle -- so I could eat straight from the can without jagging my tongue. I splashed some water into a bowl. I went to the sofa and hunted for the remote control, but it was buried so deep under soiled blankets and biscuit crumbs I couldn't even smell it.

The jangler was still hammering. Probably my ex, wanting to whine. Maybe Spike wanting to play ball. Maybe some prevention-of-cruelty charity begging for cash. But I was too sapped to care.

Sinking between cushions I felt the remote dig into my flank. I flipped it out, pawed at the controls, and the buzzscreen blinked on. Johnny Wag, famous quiz show host, was tossing the big-biscuit question to reigning champion Professor Thomas Schrödinger. But I had no appetite for brain-bait. I flicked the channel.

An electoral debate between President Brewster Goodboy and Buster Drinkwater. Goodboy was a cat's-paw, everyone knew it, but he'd win easily -- I'd probably vote for him myself. Drinkwater used way too many big words.

The jangler just wouldn't shut up. I flicked the channel again.

Swinger Cat, a new sitcom from the other side of the river.

Everybody said it was real funny -- the laugh track sure said so -- but I was in no mood for ribtickles.

A fawning documentary on the CIA.

A doomsday report on the Persians.

A horror movie, The Unfamiliar, so old I think it was in blackand- white.

A public service announcement warning us not to get scared by the fireworks on Democracy Day.

And finally something I could settle on -- a ball game. The Bulldogs were eight runs up on the Hellhounds in the sixth inning. Not exactly tight, but something I could watch without needing to think. I could pick a team -- the Bulldogs -- and cheer them on. I could bark at the ump. I could gobble my Chump's. I could slurp my water and slowly drift into snoozeville.

The jangler stopped -- finally.

But then it started hammering again.

Now I was really getting my tail up. I'd spent half the morning in court, giving evidence against the Airedale Ripper -- a whitecoat who'd carved up his victims with a medical saw and buried the remains in his backyard. Then, before I'd even had time to wolf down my lunch, I'd been called out on a new case -- bits and pieces of bone found in the sewer under Chuckside. A whole afternoon poking through doodah, and all we found were a couple of chalky knucklebones -- not even good enough to chew on. When I got back to the station the chief ordered me to have a wash -- my first in two months -- and now I was feeling so clean I almost gagged. I reckoned I could hear fleas in the corner, wondering who I was.

The Bulldogs whacked one over the fence and the jangler was still clanging.

I considered ripping the cord out with my teeth. But all of a sudden the buzzscreen was showing an ad for Friday's prizefight -- a double bill of Leroy Spitz vs Deefa Dingo and Rocky Cerberus vs new sensation Zeus Katsopoulos. If Cerberus KO'd Katsopoulos in the first round, like everyone expected, it would make him the greatest southpaw since Butch Brindle. Everyone in San Bernardo was drooling at the prospect.

But here was the problem. The Reynard Cable Network had won exclusive rights to all UBF matches. And I didn't have RCN. So all of a sudden I started wondering if it was my old buddy Spike on the line, inviting me around to watch.

I fumbled the squawker off its cradle.

"Max McNash."

"Crusher -- it's me, Bud."

Bud Borzoi was my fetch-dog at the Slaughter Unit.

I sighed. "What's up, Bud?"

"Coupla stiffs, Crusher. In Fly's Picnic."

"You can handle it."

"But you're gonna want to see this, Crusher."

"Why?"

"You're just gonna want to see it."

I sighed again. "Know what sorta day I've had so far?"

"Sorry, Crusher -- I wouldn't be barking if it wasn't serious."

Fang it, the pup could make me feel guilty. "Okay," I huffed, "but lemme get my bearings first. Where in Fly's Picnic are you?"

"Slinky Joe's Sardine Cannery."

"That's right next to Wharf Twelve, ain't it?"

"You got it in one. See you down here in, say, twenty small ones?"

"Make it thirty. And Bud?"

"Yeah?"

"Do I need to bring a barf bag?"

Bud sniggered. "Make it a doggie bag, Crusher, case there's something you want a second nibble at."

It didn't seem long since Bud had been a wide-eyed rookie, hungry for cheap thrills. Now he was making all the quips.

"Sniff you later," I said. I tossed the squawker back in place and returned the half-eaten can of Chump's to the fridge next to the gravy pot. When I switched off the buzzscreen a brawl had broken out between the Bulldogs and the Hellhounds: teeth flashing, hackles bristling -- the crowd was lapping it up.

Copyright © 2009 by Anthony O'Neill

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