John Allison's characters are a mix of personalities - just as school-age friends are in real life. To American readers they may sound a bit odd since they speak with British expressions and slang mixed in to the conversations. The main plot is the appearance of a very smart "dog" that Mildred wants to keep, but her parents won't let her. Shauna's father brings the dog (Mildred has named him Archibald) home to use as a watch dog so that people will stop breaking into his van and trying to steal his tools. Archie does odd things, like drink from a cup just as a human would, but everyone just thinks he is a very smart breed of dog. Meanwhile, small children all over town are disappearing and wildlife experts have been called in to track some mysterious footprints. Does Archie have something to do with the disappearances? What sort of dog is he? Will Shauna be able to keep him? The boys in the story decide to solve the case of the missing children by themselves - using Sonny's younger sister as bait for the beast. There are also other things going on such as a trip to the carnival, parent night at school, a magical pencil, and some bullying that needs to be sorted out.
Except for the mysterious beast, the situations are familiar and will probably remind readers of instances from their own lives. Most of us have been stuck in the middle when two of our friends were not getting along, or known someone who really wanted a pet but couldn't get their parents to agree, or been forced to take along a younger sibling on an outing with friends. I would recommend this for ages 12 and up, due to the use of some language and scenes of kids at school smoking cigarettes on campus.
I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The book is due for publication on March 12, 2014.