When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan, reviewed by Philip Womak, who has some issues with a book about a Tourette syndrome sufferer which is being marketed by Bloomsbury (with separate jackets) at both adults and teenagers:
The difficulty is that any emotional investment the reader might have made in Mint is diluted by the other problems that are hurled at him. One wonders if Conaghan threw in all the extra baggage, psychological and physical, because of the skimpiness of his plot: one can see the joins, and the confrontations approaching, well before Mint can.
Conaghan can be almost unbearably preachy, too: “But how can you be offended by something like skin, Dylan?” wonders Amir. “I don’t know, Amir, but some evil people are,” says Dylan. As a discussion of racism and mental illness, the book doesn’t even dip below the surface; as a result, both Mint and his friends often appear much, much younger than they are meant to be. Aside from Molloy, the characterisation is either caricature or cliche.
Mint has a certain charm, and his mangled language and omnivorous approach to slang suggest a lively, inquiring brain. “I couldn’t give a Friar Tuck as this dame was nothing but sex on wonky donky legs,” he muses, for all the world like a diminutive Russell Brand.
Bloomsbury have issued this novel with adult and teen covers, hoping, no doubt, for a similar crossover success to the Booker-shortlisted Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman. While its adult appeal is limited, When Mr Dog Bites has enough spark and fire to amuse early teens – if not to challenge them.