Missing Toby Jill Harris, Longacre, 182 pages, paperback, NZ$17.99
“I haven’t got a name. They just called me ‘Hey you.’”
In Missing Toby, her second novel, Jill Harris has moved her attention from talking birds (Sil, 2005) to talking dogs. Harriet, who is desperately missing her brother (the Toby of the title) slowly emerges from her grief, as she becomes aware that a secret world of dogs operates within her neighbourhood. In this novel dogs understand each other perfectly but find humans often incomprehensible.
Gus (a “small, shaggy, gingery” dog) and Max (an elderly black labrador) have made it their mission to see to the welfare of local dogs. “Hardly any water in his bowl. No shade. Nothing to do,” complains Max, when he checks on a mistreated local dog. Their conversations, especially their interpretations of human behaviour, are always entertaining. Harriet soon finds herself opening up to dogs – and people - as she learns to care for an abandoned pup, and then discovers that she has a secret benefactor. Missing Toby has an interesting plot which draws its threads together nicely in a mixture of mystery and action.
Gus and Max capture the reader’s attention as they make sacrifices to achieve their canine goals. And everyone learns the importance of dogs.
This review first appeared in The Press, Christchurch NZ, on 16th February 2008