Jenre's Reviews > Dash and Dingo: In Search of the Tasmanian Tiger

Dash and Dingo by Catt Ford
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's review
Sep 01, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: historicals, m-m, action-adventure, romance
Read in September, 2009

I've been eagerly awaiting this book. Sean Kennedy is one of my favourite m/m writers and I was interested in seeing how his writing would blend with that of Catt Ford. I also have a great love of adventure stories, especially those in the mould of H Rider Haggard and GA Henty. It's hardly surprising then, that I found this tale of love and adventure in the forests of Tasmania to be a enjoyable romp, with a message of caution about how humans, and particularly the imperial British, have trampled over the spoils of their empire.

The book begins in London in 1934 where our hero, Henry Percival-Smyth, is working in the dusty basement of Ealing College as a researcher and archivist. His passion is the the Thylacine, or Tasmanian Tiger or 'Tassie' as it is nicknamed, now almost hunted to extinction. His dull life is interrupted by the arrival of Jack 'Dingo' Chambers, an Australian adventurer and fellow enthusiast of Tassie. Within a few minutes of meeting, Henry has been given a new nickname, 'Dash', and swept off to plan a trip to Tasmania to capture a breeding pair of Tassies to bring to England in order to start a breeding programme. The story then takes us to Australia via Bangkok and onto the jungles of Tasmania where our intrepid explorers search for the tiger but also find each other, all whilst being tracked and hunted by men who wish to wipe out the tiger for good, even if it means killing Dash and Dingo along the way.

In fitting with many adventure novels of the early part of last century, this book started quite slowly. There's quite a lot of scene setting, especially in building up a picture of Henry's life in England and the dusty bureaucracy of his job. Even once the two men are on their way there's still a stop in Bangkok and a stay with Dingo's family before the true adventure begins. As this was the first book in the series, the focus is more on the two men and how their differences at first repel and then attract as they grow to know each other so I didn't mind the time spent setting the scene and fleshing out the characters of Henry and Dingo. Once the setting moves to the forests of Tasmania the focus shifts slightly towards ecological matters. The forest is a mix of terrible beauty and fragility, and there is a strong message in the middle section of the book about protecting the environment and working with harmony with nature rather than riding roughshod over it.

Most of the book is taken from the point of view of Henry as he first struggles to realise his dream of seeing a Tassie in its natural habitat and then grows both in boldness and in his views about the tiger. At the beginning of the book Henry is your typical reserved Englishman and it was delightful to see him change and develop through the book as he tackles life in the jungle and the arduous trek to see the tiger. Most of this change is to do with Dingo, whose outgoing nature and lust for life and adventure affects Henry. In some ways I wished that I could get more of the book from Dingo's point of view because I never really felt I knew him as well as Henry. In fact, on occasion, Dingo slipped a little into the stereotype of a jungle adventurer and I felt that maybe this would have been avoided if I had seen more of Dingo's thoughts. Dingo is also a little bit too good to be true at times, as is his family, which is used as a way of contrasting Dingo with Henry. Dingo is friendly, charismatic, with a wonderful accepting family and a very PC relationship with the indigenous people of Tasmania. In fact Dingo pretty much can do no wrong in the book (except perhaps deliberately winding Henry up on occasion). As a consequence of this, Henry is the more interesting man out of the pair simply because he does have flaws. The relationship between Henry and Dingo is also done well. Their feelings grow gradually, helped by the pressures and stress of their situation and also because they are isolated and therefore forced into each other's company. This is also tempered by the historical setting where the men are very aware that, once back in civilisation, they must be secretive about their love. The way that this was highlighted through the use of the gay love song was touching, as was the tender sex scenes.

The place where this book really shines is in the description of the various settings. Cold rainy England is all dull colours; Bangkok is heat and spicy tastes; Melbourne is sun and brightness; and Tasmania is lush foliage and animals with sharp teeth. The comparisons were delightful and each place lovingly realised so that I felt that I was actually there alongside the two men and experiencing Henry's awe and amazement with him.

There were a few little niggles. Firstly, at the beginning of the book there are a number of occasions where there is a sudden hop from Henry's view to Dingo's for a sentence and then back to Henry. I found this distracting and it pulled me out of the story. Fortunately, this only happens a few times and only in the first half of the book. Secondly, is the villain of the piece, Hodges, who behaves in a baffling random way which is rather conveniently explained away at the end of the book. I felt that he veered strongly into pantomime villain and I didn't really feel that the explanation as to why he was hunting the men was in keeping with his subsequent behaviour. I also hadn't really got a clue as to the role of the Tasmanian government and Hodge's relationship to them. In some ways, I suppose this fits in with an adventure setting where the bad guy is often a megalomaniac, but when fitted into the realistic setting and the serious issue of ecological responsibility, his presence and behaviour was slightly jarring to the story.

Don't let these slight niggles put you off though, because I really enjoyed this ripping yarn with a serious ecological message. Even the epilogue was well written and necessary to the plot and general arc of the series. It was very obvious that both authors have a great love of the settings and themes of this book, especially the Thylacine, as that enthusiasm shone through in the their writing. If you like adventure books then this should be added to your TBR pile. I'm already looking forward to reading the next adventure starring Dash and Dingo.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Lily Fabulous review, Jen!!
I've got this in my TBR and I'm looking forward to reading it.

Jenre Thanks Lily, it's a great book.

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