The survivors who fall in love in Robert Crais’ new crime novel, Suspect, have been deeply damaged by gun violence. One is a Marine Corps veteran of the war in Afghanistan; the other is a policeman, critically wounded in a Los Angeles shootout. When they meet, both are mourning their deceased partners and crippled by post-traumatic stress disorder; neither feels secure, whole, especially around others. Maggie, a German shepherd, and Scott James, her new handler in the LAPD K-9 corps, are each other’s last hope.

Crais, a south Louisiana native, wasn’t preparing to write his 19th book when he began researching relationships formed between people and dogs. He’d been grieving for a dozen years the death of his beloved Akita and wanted perspective on the “terrible pangs of guilt and disloyalty” he still suffered at the thought of getting another dog. In a January interview he explained, “The more I learned about the true nature of dogs, the more enamored I became of the emotional closeness that human beings and dogs can share. And that’s what really drove me to write about Maggie and Scott. It was a healing process for me, I think.”

You’ll be enamored, too, of the intimacy that develops between this duo. The plot’s progression depends on it, but its sweetness and authenticity make it compelling in its own right. At the K-9 Platoon training facility, in the 1981 Trans Am Scott drives, in the guest house he calls home, on their forays to find the bad guys: Everywhere, their interaction is detailed, their mutual devotion palpable.

A few moving chapters of the book are written from Maggie’s point of view, showing her ceaseless attention to Scott and his safety. Maggie monitors his movements and voice, his smells and sounds—even the change in his heartbeat that signals sleep. The novel’s other human characters, likewise portrayed with nuance, view the two as “suspect,” unreliable, but don’t know what Maggie knows: She and Scott are “pack.” Which means everything.