Book Review: A Pug’s Tale by Alison PacePublished April 13, 2012
Courtesy of Alison Pace
Working 12-hour days recently had me wishing I could bring my dog to work. Around dinnertime as I eat staring at my computer screen, I dream about having my furry friend sitting under the desk gazing up at me with her big blue eyes begging for food scraps. Afterwards, we’d step out for a walk in the park to burn off the calories. Alas, my New York skyrise would never make that dream come true. But it is not the case for Hope McNeill, the female protagonist in Alison Pace’s novel A Pug’s Tale¸ a funny and clever story of a pug named Max and his owner set on solving an art heist mystery at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Hope, who works as a conservator at the Met, has been sneaking her portly pug into the building in her tote bag with the help of friendly security guards. Even though she could easily leave Max at her apartment and hire a dog walker, she’d much rather have her canine by her side, especially since his real owner, Hope’s boyfriend Ben, is away in Africa working on a humanitarian job assignment.
Hope misses her boyfriend, but she is happy to be working at the world famous Museum, until the fateful “Pug Night,” a special event hosted to honor one of the museum’s biggest donors Daphne Markham. Hope finally gets to legally bring Max into the museum, but things don’t go as planned when Max, a normally calm dog, charges the guest of honor and causes her pug Madeline to end up in the reflecting pool. Getting away from the scene of the incident, Hope finds herself back in her work studio with Max. Max gets to doing what dogs do best- sniffing and curiously examining his surroundings, and in the process leads Hope to a painting that mysteriously appears in a corner.
As it turns out, the painting of pansies by Henri Fantin-Latour that showed up in the studio is a fake. The real one has gone missing. No one knows how it happened, or who placed the fake in the studio. The security cameras are compromised. Nothing like this has ever happened at the Museum.
Then comes in her boss Elliot, who Hope once had a crush on; Gil Turner from the Museum’s Development office; and a mysterious private detective named Chaz Greene, all out to solve the mystery of the missing painting without letting the authorities know. The Museum’s reputation is on the line. But when all of them begin to suspect Hope for the theft, she decides to find the culprit on her own, with help from her brainy side kick pug and the clues she gets from an unknown source that somehow all relate to artwork in the Museum one way or another.
Author Alison Pace is no stranger to art. She majored in art history and worked in the art world in various capacities, at an auction house, and as a researcher for a dealer for about a decade before writing her first novel which was inspired by quotes from Andy Warhol. She said, “Art almost always makes it into my novels, thinking about art seems to have this way of becoming part of my creative process.”
Still, it’s the dogs that steal the show. Pace, with her keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of pugs for someone who doesn’t own any, leaves one with the feeling of having made new canine friends after reading her book. Whether it be the adorable Max or the stylishly dressed Daphne’s doting pug Madeline, the reader is left wanting to read more adventures from these lovable funny dogs.
Pace grew up with dogs, but went through a period in New York when she was without dog. She said, “A Pug’s Tale came about by virtue of the fact that even four, five years after Pug Hill came out, I still thought so much about the protagonist of that novel and what she'd be up to. Since that character was such a searcher, a yearner, I started thinking of things she might look for and the idea for a mystery, originally called Pug Heist, started forming.”
A Pug’s Tale is the sequel to Pug Hill, a novel about single Hope McNeill and her life in New York without a pug to call her own. Pace has also authored several other books involving art and dogs. As for getting inspired by dogs, Pace said, “My dog Carlie in particular helps a lot with writing as I figure a lot of my writing out when I'm away from my laptop. Carlie is a very slow walker and really embraces the philosophy of stopping and smelling the roses so she provides me with more than ample opportunity to wander around.”
Those looking for a fun mystery involving art, dogs and interesting characters, look no further than A Pug’s Tale. You’ll laugh out loud, want to visit the grand Metropolitan Museum of Art, go on a walk in Central Park with Max, or get a pug of your own.
I am now off to scheme about smuggling my 60-pound mutt into my office building.