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Water Dogs: A Novel Hardcover – January 13, 2009

11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Robinson's atmospheric and dreary first novel (after story collection Officer Friendly) revolves around a man gone missing in a blizzard. Bennie, a 20-something college dropout, scratches out a middling existence in rural Maine and lives with his taciturn brother, Littlefield, in their family's rotting mansion. The brothers don't have much going for them, and things get worse after a mishap during a paintball game. During the match, played during a blizzard, Bennie falls into a gorge and badly hurts himself, and a drifter member of the opposing team disappears. His body isn't recovered, and nobody's sure if he just picked up and left town or was murdered. But Littlefield and Bennie's friend Julian both call attention to themselves by behaving strangely, and when Bennie's twin sister, Gwen, comes back for a visit, she and Helen, a young woman working for Julian who catches Bennie's eye, help Bennie ferret out the truth about the missing man. Though the labored shifts between past and present detract from the narrative's understated power, Robinson does a magnificent job of painting a bleak and vivid picture of a rough-hewn community and the bonds that hold it together. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

Bennie Littlefield is basically drifting through life as he nears the age of 27, working part-time at an animal hospital and trying to repair his family home on Meadow Island, Maine, where he lives with his older brother, William Jr., who’s known simply as “Littlefield.” Having been trained in the biathlon by his late father, Bennie relishes paintball competitions, and during one of these games in the midst of a snowstorm, his life takes a turn. Bennie, trying to evade opposition shooters, is injured when he falls into a quarry, and a competitor, Ray LaBrecque, goes missing. Police investigating the disappearance focus on Littlefield because of his longtime interest in LaBrecque’s girlfriend, while Bennie seeks proof of his brother’s innocence. Unfortunately, it’s hard to care much about the characters in Water Dogs (which the Meadow Islanders call themselves), and the book’s narrative is annoyingly detailed and meandering, lacking the edge and tighter prose of his collection Officer Friendly and Other Stories (2003). A somewhat disappointing debut from a promising writer. --Michele Leber

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (January 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400062179
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400062171
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.8 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,984,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jon Hunt on January 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Maine, in the winter. It's not exactly the happy vacationland we associate with the state during the sunny and warm months, so all the more reason to set a novel in the light-challenged snow of January or February. And light really is noteworthy here, because this brilliant first novel by Lewis Robinson, "Water Dogs", is presented in muted hues. That, in itself, helps the characters rise to passion.

Those pesky twenty-somethings are growing up and with it comes paintball tournaments, early adult love, reflections of adolescence and, yes, intrigue. Robinson deftly splays his characters across sofas, beds and time and the result is as crisp a novel as the snow undertow. The story unfolds neatly, and his narrative always runs in a smooth fashion.

"Water Dogs" is not to be read on the beach. It's a fireplace and blizzard type of book, and one I highly recommend. This is my first introduction to Lewis Robinson and I hope to read more of his works.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bryan D. Desjardins on May 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was a big fan of Robinson's first effort, Officer Friendly. I'm sorry I can't say the same about Water Dogs. The characters are thin, unremarkable, and the plot is serviceable at best. Midway through, I found myself asking "Who cares?--a death knell for the reading experience. Still, I think Robinson has the stuff of a fine writer. I just wish he would stop holding back.

Understated is nice; boring is not.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A favorable review in the New York Times Review of Books led me to read this novel. It is hard to determine how, but Lewis Robinson puts you in the run down home and in the Maine woods and bays in the dreary Maine winter. Reading this novel, you can see the snow falling and put on a sweater to warm yourself in a house with the thermostat set no higher than sixty. The mystery of the disappearance of a young man during a fierce paintball contest is thoroughly engrossing. Robinson's character development and plot pacing make this a worthwhile book. While it is a page turner, it also has depth and is a cut above the mass market paperbacks you buy at the airport.

The book revolves around the lives of a family of twenty-somethings and their friends. While you find yourself wishing they'd get some direciton in life, you also find yourself there with them. Robinson puts you in their world and gets you inside their heads and hearts.

This book is art and fine literature. I hope we see more from this author. This is his first novel. He had previously published a collection of short stories.

Everyone who reviews this book seems to have some connection with Maine so I might as well say mine. We own a home in central Maine and have vacationed there for over thirty years. We are "from away." My daughter is a Bowdoin graduate, who coincidentally worked in animal shelters in town and got to know a fair number of local people while studying there. She and her fiance, also a Bowdoin graduate whose family now makes theiir home in the vicinity found the book captivating.

The book is moody and believable and a fine mystery. You will find yourself wanting to get back to it when you put it down. You will also get the sense that you reading something worthwhile.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In Water Dogs, Lewis Robinson has created a mystery worth reading not so much for the plot as the characters and evocative landscape enmeshed in that mystery. After a vicious winter paintball game in which protagonist Bennie Littlefield is injured, Bennie's competitor - Ray LaBreque - goes missing. Bennie lives an aimless existence in a rundown house with his brother, scraping out a living working part-time at the local veterinary hospital, but the mystery of LaBreque's disappearance nudges him from the complacency that has marked much of his adult life. As with his short story collection, Officer Friendly and Other Stories, Robinson's wry wit and his rare ability to capture the stark beauty of those unremarkable moments that define most of our lives makes this a novel worth reading. If you're looking for a romanticized thrill ride, this probably isn't the novel for you; however, beautifully written and surprisingly tender, Water Dogs will resonate with fans of writers like Raymond Carver and John Irving. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
Water Dogs by Lewis Robinson, his first novel following his very successful collection of short stories has all of the ingredients for success. It is beautifully written. Beyond that, the suspense holds a reader's interest, building carefully to a remarkable and believable conclusion. The page by page development of the main characters reveals Robinson's grasp of the subtleties of family, especially sibling relationships, young love and an appreciation of nature in its most awesome features. Robinson reveals himself to be an accomplished writer who is to be watched for further, even more mature work. New Englanders, and especially visitors to Maine will find it an especially good read.
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Format: Hardcover
This book was such a good read. For me the brilliance was in the details. For example. my above review title is a book which the protagonist sees on a bedside table, giving the reader an amusing sense of the occupant of the room. Robinson then goes on to note all the books down the hall in his girlfriend's room so we are able to fill in many of the blanks as to who she really is. Starkly portrayed with both compassion, warmth and humor are the complications of local life in Maine (or anywhere) in the cold, dark times. Water Dogs is shortish, pithy and wonderful. I loved it.
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