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Stalking the Dragon: A Fable of Tonight (John Justin Mallory Mystery) by Mike Resnick
Cover Artist: David Palumbo
Review by Cathy Green
Pyr Trade Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781591027454
Date: 25 August 2009 List Price $15.98 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

In Stalking the Dragon, a sequel to Stalking the Unicorn and "Post Time in Pink" (a short story in the Newer York anthology edited by Lawrence Watt-Evans, which is out of print but absolutely worth hunting down used) private detective John Justin Mallory is back, along with his partner Col. Winifred Carruthers and the office cat-girl Felina. They're just getting ready to close up for the night and go to dinner when Buffalo Bill Brody bursts in demanding to hire them to find his miniature dragon Fluffy, who has been kidnapped (lizardnapped?) right before the biggest show of the season, the Eastminster pet show, where Fluffy was sure to be a strong contender for Best in Show. Given that Fluffy is due in the ring at 4:00 pm the next day, Brody is desperate and offers Mallory $1000 up front and an additional $5000 upon safe return of Fluffy in time for the show.

Given Mallory's penchant for betting on losers, the money's certainly welcome, so Mallory puts aside his dinner plans and waits for Col Carruthers to return. As it turns out, he might have been better off waiting for Winifred to return before he accepted the assignment, since she informs him that the second favorite at Eastminster is Carmelita, a chimera owned by the Grundy. Mallory sets off to confront his demonic archnemesis, who not only does not have the dragon but also offers to pay Mallory to find Fluffy, since as a true sportsman the Grundy wants Carmelita to beat Fluffy fair and square. Of course, being the Grundy, he could find and locate the kidnapper easily, but the rules he operates by means he's not going to tell Mallory. Or maybe the Grundy just enjoys annoying Mallory that way.

So Mallory and Col. Carruthers split up to check out all the locations where someone might stash a dragon. Along the way, Mallory acquires several more helpers including Fluffy's gremlin handler, a Samurai goblin, an amorous cellphone, a zombie, and a large very stupid man with an appetite the size of Texas as he makes his way through the humorously and aptly named parts of this alternate Manhattan. In the search for Fluffy, he visits, among other exotic locations, the Frump Tower, full of aging women dressing mutton as lamb and desperately seeking paramours, the Bureau of Missing Creatures, and Greenwitch Village where they consult, naturally, a witch. Ultimately Mallory figures out who took Fluffy and why and makes his way to the Eastminster show for a showdown in the ring with the Grundy and Carmelita.

This is a fun, light book full of groan-inducing puns and slapstick humor that would have been perfect for reading by the pool had I gotten my hands on it over the summer and can now be recommended to readers for chasing away the upcoming winter blahs. My only complaint with the book is that given Mike Resnick's years of experience showing and breeding championship collies, I would have liked to see a bit more focus on the Eastminster show, since I have no doubt Resnick's real life show experiences could have been transformed into some really funny scenes in the book. However, that's a very small quibble and it is not really fair of me to criticize the book on the basis of what I wanted it to be rather than on what it actually is, which is a fun detective romp I have no hesitation of recommending.

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