Move over James Bond. Here is a dog that can do what the ace spy could and better. Lara— code name, GM451—with a stick-up ear is no ordinary dog. She is a licensed assault and rescue animal adopted by the Cook family from the RSPCA, where she landed up by mistake after being shot during a mission.
What the Cook family does not know is that Lara chose them as part of her escape plan from the RSPCA. The highly-trained secret agent can cook, waterski, play cricket and catch villains—not necessarily in that order, too. She has been trained in all this by her handler in MI5, Professor Cortex.
Ben, Sophie and their youngest brother, Ollie Cook, are on a fun-filled holiday with Lara and their parents. Lara also finds time to train the locality’s cats and dogs on how to become a good neighbourhood-watch team. The idyllic sojourn is about to be shattered as master criminal Mr Big is all set to escape from the high-security prison he is in. Mr Big has one burning ambition: find and eliminate Lara, who was responsible for his incarceration.
The plot thickens with Mr Big’s sensational escape with two cronies. A spate of crimes committed by a mutt which is an exact replica of Lara baffles the police as well as the city. Finally, the police dog catcher locks up Lara, holding her responsible for the
K9 power: The Cook family was part of Lara’s escape plan.
With Lara out of the way, Mr Big, who has now changed into the respectable, wealthy Sir Humphrey Goldfinger (possibly, a not-so-subtle tribute from the author to the Bond thriller), is ready to pull off the biggest heist of his career: steal the Millennium Diamond. Can the Cook siblings and Professor Cortex help free Lara? Will Mr Big get away with it? Is there any chance for Lara to use her skills? The children, in the meantime, discover that there is one clue to Lara’s innocence.
This book—the third in the Spy Dog series—is pure fun and different from the fantasy lit taking the world by storm. Lara, too, is a big change from Buster and Timmy of Enid Blyton fame. Andrew Cope’s first two books in this series were Spy Dog and Spy Dog 2.
For the record, Cope actually has a dog called Lara, complete with one stick-up ear that he adopted from the RSPCA. A teacher and writer, Cope, who is a huge fan of the Derby County football club, suspects—sometimes—that his pet is actually a highly-trained secret agent who has gone undercover. Cope’s (he lives in Derbyshire, England) grouse—in an interview with BBC—is that his dog gets more attention and pats (while being taken out for walks) than he does.
The author won the Doncaster Book Award in March this year for Spy Dog 2, after fighting off worthy adversaries such as Robert Muchamore (Divine Madness), Eoin Colfer (Half Moon Investigations), Charlie Higson (Blood Fever) and Darren Shan (Demon Thief). Set up by the Doncaster libraries (from where children can borrow the books), children from schools in that area vote for and choose their best book from a list of 25 popular new books written for 10-15 year olds. The Doncaster experiment is a very good example of how children can get hooked on reading.
Apart from his storytelling skills, Cope wears another hat. He runs a training course called the Art of Being Brilliant for businesses and schools.
The writer is the editor of Heek(e-heek.com), a children’s magazine.
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