Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Stodgy British archivist Henry Percival-Smythe slaves away in the dusty basement of Ealing College in 1934, the only bright spot in his life his obsession with a strange Australian mammal, the thylacine. It has been hunted to the edge of extinction, and Henry would love nothing more than to help the rare creature survive.
Then a human whirlwind spins through his door. Jack “Dingo” Chambers is also on the hunt for the so-called “Tasmanian Tiger,” although his reasons are far more altruistic. Banding together, Dingo and the newly nicknamed Dash travel halfway around the globe in their quest to save the thylacine from becoming a footnote in the pages of biological history.
While they search high and low, traverse the wilds, and fight the deadliest of all creatures—man—Dash and Dingo will face danger and discover another fierce passion within themselves: a desire for each other.
The first thing you need to know about Dash and Dingo is that it’s a glorious adventure with a wealth of world building set mostly in a part of the world that is not known to most of us – Tasmania, an island off the coast of Australia. Its location contributed to the lush plant and animal life which are highlighted in the book, many of which are endangered species and we are reminded of how fragile our environment and eco systems are, the need to protect the creatures who live in those areas where few of us will ever visit, and the importance of not leaving our footprints
But this story is above all an adventure starring Dash and Dingo, two men who could not be more different, and how they fell in love and in lust while searching for the Tasmanian Tiger, long thought to be extinct.
When we are introduced to Henry Percival-Smythe (Dash) it is 1934 and he is working in the basement of a minor government department in a junior position in England where it seems to rain all the time, barely making enough to live on and refusing any financial help from his well off, titled family in which he is the outsider. His main joy and occupation is to research everything there is to know about the Tasmanian Tiger, or thylacine, and his dream is to repatriate two tigers to England and have them breed in captivity.
Because this is the first book in the series there is quite a lot of atmosphere and world building, including family interactions, to give the readers a picture of Dash’s life before he met Dingo and also to show the differences between the two families when the story shifts to Australia. The contrast between the protagonists could not be more marked when they met for the first time. Dingo is the quintessential adventurer – devil may care, charismatic and sexy as all get out while Henry (Dash) is repressed, dull, and a stick in the mud who has no life outside of his job. Sparks fly between them during their initial exchange, and even though Dash has no idea what to do with Dingo, he is only too happy to escape his old boring life when Dingo proposes that they team up and hitch their stars to each other in the search for Tassie, the thylacine. As they travel to Melbourne, Australia, via Bangkok, Dash falls in love with his new partner, Dingo.
During their quest to find the thylacine, D & D endure thrills, barely surviving at times in the forest, they get lost as they try to stay ahead of Hodges the main villain in the story and sometimes succeed, they have a misadventure in the River Styx (which if you remember your Greek mythology is the boundary between Earth and the underworld), all of which make this an exhilarating and electrifying read that you won’t want to put down.
I love the fact that this book had an actual plot and wasn’t just a series of sex scenes strung together, but when D & D eventually had sex it was tender, incredibly erotic as well as it burned up the sheets. There was one scene where they had sex in the mud that was so hot your engine would probably overheat.:)
Catt Ford and Sean Kennedy did an incredible job on these two characters and their voices blended seamlessly, so much so that I couldn’t tell where one began and the other ended, a sign of a true writing partnership. The plot was complex and I tip my hat to these authors for gunning their motors in the interest of giving the readers a fantastic ride without a safety net. I thought it took a lot of guts for Dash to embark on an adventure that would take him half way around the world without any idea whether his dream of finding a thylacine would be realised, and his character grew and changed 180 degrees in the book to the extent that he became an intrepid explorer in the end. Great job on character development! Another plus about the book was the wonderful humour throughout.
Dash and Dingo is told primarily from Henry’s point of view, which initially I thought was a strategic error because Jack Chalmers, or Dingo, jumps off the page he’s so vibrant, while Henry or Dash is very low key, hardly leaves an impression, and it’s very easy to overlook him. However when I finished the book I realized that if Dingo’s perspective were known earlier his thoughts and motivations would have affected my enjoyment of the book and some key plot points would have been revealed too soon.
What did I like about the book? The wonderful characterizations and the plot. In addition to Dash and Dingo and Dingo’s family, I must mention that the character of Jarrah stood out, and the authors made him as authentic as possible, given the times. Of course Jarrah’s character would not be politically correct today, but in 1934 he was true to the way “Aborigines” were treated. Now many of Australia’s indigenous people find the word “Aborigine” offensive because it is a reminder of colonisation by the British and the injustices they endured. The other minor characters especially Mary, Jarrah’s wife, were three dimensional and even Dash’s old boss was well drawn.
What didn’t I like about this book? I was incredibly disappointed at the American spelling throughout Dash and Dingo which pulled me out of the story whenever I encountered it. This is quite a departure from Tigers and Devils, Kennedy’s previous story that was also set in Australia, which retained the British (or Australian) spelling. This book is set in 1934 in Tasmania, when Australia was still a colony of Great Britain, yet its authenticity is marred by spelling! It seemed to me that if the prose and dialogue could be true to the era then the spelling should be too.
There was a minor bit of head hopping in the beginning of the book but this was corrected as the story progressed.
Although I understood the need for lots of background information on the families since this is part of a series, I thought there may have been a bit too much for some readers. Also, I’m not sure that Hank (Dingo”s) dad would have been as broadminded about his son’s sexuality in 1934 as portrayed in the book.
Last, the villain Hodges was perhaps the one character that I felt was over the top and I didn’t think that we were given a satisfactory explanation for why he was as vicious and cruel as he turned out to be.
Dash and Dingo is extremely violent towards the end and if you’re squeamish I’m not sure it’s the book for you. However, if you love adventure (and this is an old style adventure with thrills and chills in almost every chapter once the initial world building is over) Dash and Dingo is a tremendous book which I intend to read again and again. Despite my reservations mentioned above I have to give this book 5 stars because I think it is deserving of this rating, if only because of the complexity and originality of the plot and the wonderful characters. This is the longest review I can remember writing for some time 🙂