"The lower city is mine. Its people are mine. If I find them that's doing all this kidnapping and murdering, they'd best pray for mercy, because once I get my teeth in 'em, I will NEVER let them go."
The fifth series—but chronologically, the first—in Tamora Pierce's Tortall Universe. In an effort to make him give up his thieving ways, Eleni Cooper gives her young son George the journals of a famous ancestor: Rebekah Cooper, an officer in Corus' nascent police force. Known as "Dogs," they did their best to keep the peace, often walking a fine line between lawkeeper and outlaw. The series follows Beka from her entry onto the force as a trainee through a tumultuous period in the country's history. Rather than sorcerers and kings, Beka's enemies are slumlords and counterfeiters. With the ability to hear the souls of the dead, Beka swears to protect the common people of her city from those who try to victimize them.The Provost's Dog books are the longest of any of Tamora Pierce's works and the first story to be written as a trilogy. It is also the first book to feature the commoner side of Tortall life as the main character in both setting and people, which is much darker and messier than the palace.A list of characters can be found here.The trilogy has three books:
Absurdly Spacious Sewer: The final showdown in Bloodhound takes place in one of the Justified type that had walkways along the waste canals for workers. It's also flushed out regularly by Port Caynn's tides, which is happening during the fight. It's as disgusting as it sounds.
Abusive Parents: In Terrier, Deirdry Noll. She hits Gemma and her thug of a son Yates is openly terrified of her. Possibly why her other sons are so far from home.
Action Girl: Numerous apart from Beka herself, as the police force includes male and female members.
Special mention should go to the Watch Commander, Ahuda. Even coves in other cities are in awe of her!
Action Pet: Achoo and Pounce, both of whom attack enemies if needed. Note that while Achoo is a trained sniffer dog, Pounce is a cat. He's a constellation, true, but it still surprises folks.
Adult Fear: Kidnapping and enslavement or murder of children in Terrier, which is repeated in Mastiff.
All First Person Narrators Write Like Novelists: Thanks to the Framing Device of the journals. It's not too ridiculous since she's usually recounting events on the same day they occurred (and there are a few entries she explicitly puts off for another time). However, there are times where she's writing from a week or more later, still with perfect recall and an appropriate eye for wordplay and drama. Mastiff gives this the Hand Wave of a "memory palace".
Ambition Is Evil: Pearl in Bloodhound. She doesn't care if her counterfeit money will ruin an entire kingdom; she just wants to be richer than anyone else.
Animal Talk: Sort of. Beka isn't actually talking to the pigeons, but the souls that ride on them, though she does actually address the pigeons at points.
Artistic License - Economics: Averted, and how. Bloodhound revolves around counterfeiters led by two people, one who wants to be richer than everyone else, and the other who wants to crash the economy and is using the former's greed to do it.
Automaton Horses: Subverted in Mastiff. Beka is miffed when Sabine's horses are added to the Hunt because she thinks they'll slow them down, being such high-maintenance animals compared to Achoo.
Badass: Beka becomes steadily more badass as the series goes on. Her senior Dogs, Clary and Tunstall, also qualify handily.
Balls of Steel: It's not uncommon for male Dogs and Rats to wear codpieces, since nobody fights "fair". But Goodwin still takes down a mugger wearing a cheap one—it crumples when she kicks him.
Braids of Action: Reconstructed. Beka notes that long hair is easy to grab in a fight, hence why most fighters keep it short. However, Beka braids a spiked strap into her hair so those that grab her braid will regret it, and it's apparently a common enough practice that most don't try it.
Broken Aesop: A minor one between Bloodhound and Mastiff. In the first, Big Bad Pearl Skinner reveals a soft spot for dogs, but it irritates Beka because it doesn't prove a hidden good side—it's just a reminder of how little she values human lives, echoing a similar point about the Big Bad of The Immortals. In the second, Beka decides that a girl at Queensgrace (which is involved in a treasonous plot) is trustworthy... because she is a dog lover.
Buffy Speak: The use of slang is much heavier than the other Tortall series; presumably it all went out of fashion by the present time.
Call Forward: Numerous. The Dancing Dove is built in this series, Beka meets one of Alanna's ancestors and goes to Port Caynn, and numerous noble names (Naxen, Haryse, etc) appear. The original founder of the Provost's Guard is Padraig haMinch, who has an identically-named descendant in Protector of the Small.
Chekhov's Gunman: Queen Jessamine is mentioned as King Roger's new bride in Terrier in a sentence or two. It turns out that she's responsible for the improved management of the kingdom, since her weird habit of actually being a responsible monarch inspires her husband to do the same. We learn this when she appears at the beginning of Mastiff, and that it's also caused a lot of resentment among the ministers and nobles.
Church Militant: They don't actually appear, but the Goddess' "warrior mots with sickles" are threatened against the lecherous Fulk when Goodwin notices him harrassing Beka.
Continuity Drift: The limits of Beka's powers seem to shift between Terrier and Bloodhound. In Terrier despite multiple attempts she cannot seem to convince the ghosts she talks to to so much as give her their name - they ignore her to the point that the only time one actually responds in the book it isn't even to Beka but a murdered child's spirit to his mother, Tansy. By Bloodhound she can have conversations with the ghosts and ask questions of them in the manner you would do so to an alive witness. Her powers could have simply developed over time but no mention is made to this which makes it something of a Plot Hole.
Cosmic Plaything: Unlike others in the series, Beka doesn't mind serving the Black God of Death, since he values the souls of the dead far more than the other gods seem to value the souls of the living.
Dark Is Not Evil / Don't Fear The Reaper: One of the three main gods in Tortall is the Black God, who is in charge of death. He is said to be the kindest and most merciful of the three, and in Mastiffthe god himself calls Beka his finest priestess and buries a large number of dead bodies so that she and her friends don't have to either lose time doing it themselves or risk Beka breaking by leaving them for the scavengers.
Dating Catwoman: Dogs have Rat friends and vice-versa. Ersken, a Dog, dates Kora, a Rat, for most of the trilogy.
Determinator: Beka. It's where she gets her "Terrier" nickname.
Beka Cooper: The lower city is mine, its people are mine. If I find them that's doing all this kidnapping and murdering, they'd best pray for mercy, because once I get my teeth in 'em, I will never let them go.
Dirty Cop: The Provost's Guard's definition of "dirty" is a bit looser than our modern one (taking kickbacks in "Happy Bags" is a well known and accepted practice for even good cops), but as Beka eventually discovers, a large percent of the Guards of Port Caynn are completely corrupt. Pierce notes in the appendix that policing is still being codified, so most Dogs are making it up as they go.
In fact Beka's early unwillingness to take bribes is frowned upon as it is likely to lead her being targeted.
One of Beka's partners took a bribe to ignore murder. She arrested him.
Beka's mother had some abusive boyfriends. The reason Beka got the attention of Lord Gershom in the first place was because she was tracking the one who'd beaten and robbed Ilony.
Yates Noll beats his sister Gemma, and she implies that her married sisters get worse from their husbands.
Beka herself appears to have been on the receiving end of this with regards to her fiancée Holborn. She specifically mentions that he used to yell and emotionally blackmail her, and judging by the questions she poses to Farmer (which boils down to, "Do you throw things when you get angry?") he may have physically abused her as well.
Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Harshly averted in Terrier when the first person Beka arrests is a woman who was beating her children and husband, throwing heavy things at them, and threatening them with a knife. The husband is never ridiculed, the case is treated seriously in the courts, and the woman is given the recommended highest sentence of hard labor outside the city limits.
Terrier: You think your fellow Lower City denizens are giving themselves airs when they have a nice trinket? Just ransom and murder their children, that'll learn 'em.
Bloodhound: You were dishonorably discharged after years of devoted military service for hitting The Neidermeyer? Ruin the nation's economy.
MastiffSome rather self-important mages decided they didn't want to be taxed so the common folk wouldn't be so strapped. In response, they kidnap the king's son with plans to kill him, kill dozens of others along the way for barely any reason at all, and attempt to overthrow the government.
Distant Finale: The third book ends with George's thoughts on his "legendary ancestress"; it's revealed that he takes the family shrine's statuette of her along with him on big jobs, just to hack off her spirit. Then a certain cat edits his memory to remove all mentions of 'Pounce' so George won't be weirded out by Faithful.
Doorstopper: Easily the longest books Pierce has ever written.
Drinking On Duty: Otelia is drunk during her watch on Beltane. This is one of the things that leads to the death of Verene and Rollo.
The Dung Ages: The Lower City is a lot dirtier and smellier than the settings of the other Tortall books; Beka points out more than once the "scummer" all over the streets and in the gutters; good sanitation is warning your neighbors before you dump the chamberpot out of the window. But it's mainly a consequence of the area being so poor—wealthier districts are noted as being much cleaner.
Evil Matriarch: We find out in Terrier that Deirdry Noll is really this for Yates and Gemma.
Even Evil Has Standards: Pearl in Bloodhound. She's a murderous rogue who doesn't care for anyone's lives but her own, and does none of the helpful parts of a Rogue's job. But she cannot stand people who abuse animals, and says that it's cowardly to beat a creature that can't speak out about it.
Evil Versus Evil: In Terrier, a serial child-killing extortionist targets the family of Ammon "Crookshank" Lofts, an absolutely vile slumlord who's responsible for the book's other serial murder case. The Dogs take a while to pursue the case because nobody cares if Crookshank is hurt.
Otelia and Rollo—Verene's training partners—say that Goodwin and Tunstall intentionally make other Dogs look bad basically by doing the job thoroughly. Later, Otelia suggests Beka do work that Otelia could do herself and is told off for it. In hindsight, it's not that surprising that they got Verene killed on duty, and Beka's friends wonder how they even got assigned a Puppy in the first place.
There are a few cases of counterfit coins in Terrier. The problem grows exponentially in Bloodhound and the investigation comprises the plot of the book.
Tunstall is increasingly Dented Iron—his injuries are resistant to healing and Achey Scars plague him. Also, his relationship with Lady Sabine is a Berserk Button. He ends up betraying the realm in exchange for a noble title so he can still be useful and "worthy" of her.
Fourth Date Marriage: Beka and Farmer decide to get married near the end of their Hunt. It was a pretty intense month, all right?
The entire series is about George Cooper's ancestor—a stalwart police officer.
Lionel of Trebond, the head of the Port Caynn guard and Alanna's ancestor, is a sexist who subscribes to a cult that thinks women have "tender souls" and aren't cut out for violence. He's also far too much of a wimp to deal with the Rogue.
Genre Shift: Not from fantasy, of course, but the setting changes drastically from the royal/noble circles occupied by Alanna, Daine, Kel, and Aly; this is the first time we really see how commoners in Tortall live day-to-day.note Daine technically is a commoner, but her wild magic means she is in the king's inner circle. Being about a young police officer, the series also naturally takes a crime novel format, as well as being written in first person.
Getting the Boot: Not a comedic version. Lord Gershom bodily throws Hilyard out of the graveyard when Hilyard starts spewing bile about the Provost's Guard at Verene and Rollo's funeral in Terrier.
God Was My Copilot: Pounce. Kora actually cottons on to his true identity, noticing that the Cat constellation is presently missing. He's clearly the same being as Faithful, although this is only explicitly stated in Mastiff.
Heat Wave: There's a bad one in the start of Bloodhound, during which a riot breaks out over the rising price of bread.
Heroic Bastard: Nestor is a minor character version of this. Despite being from "the wrong side of the sheet," he manages to become a Dog through his close friendship with his older cousin, the Lord Provost.
Hidden Villain: One of the masterminds of the counterfeiting plot in Bloodhound is Hanse Remy, who wants to hurt Tortall as much as he can after his years of military service ended when he hit his Neidermeyer of an officer. Beka knew he was involved, granted, but not the depth of it.
Hide Your Lesbians: Averted in Bloodhound with a queer couple as major characters, one of whom is a transgender singer.
Horsing Around: Lady Sabine's horses Drummer and Steady. In addition to normal warhorse kick-the-enemy training are, according to Beka, “truly enthusiastic when it comes to the head”. Sabine trained them to do that to cut down on the harassment encountered while being a female knight, but Drummer takes his job extra-seriously — apparently if she hadn't introduced Tunstall as a friend, Drummer might have attacked him the first time he saw them hug. Not entirely surprising that Pounce later confirms Farmer's suspicion that Macayhills are horse mages, with Sabine being particularly powerful.
In Bloodhound, Beka is nearly killed by two men who wanted to get back at her for arresting their brother. Needless to say, when they come back to Beka as pigeons, they're not pleased about having been killed and proclaim that they would have finished the job had they had the chance.
In the same book, Rosto is said to be very annoyed that Beka ended up with another man while on her assignment while he's been bedding dozens of women himself.
Insignia Ripoff Ritual: Lord Gershom does this to a pair of Dogs that laid low during the Bread Riot in Bloodhound. They show up the next day fresh as daisies while literally every one of their comrades has at the least a black eye.
In the Blood: Strongly averted. Not only is Beka the opposite of what we know George will grow up to be, but Alanna's ancestor Lionel is a sexist coward.
The Shadow Snake. Deirdry Noll ruthlessly victimizes other poor families who have the good luck or ability to get themselves one nice thing because she thinks she deserves it more than they do.
The villains of Mastiff. A number of very powerful mages lend their support and magic to a treasonous attempt at regicide. Why? Because the King is trying to make them work for the public and putting a sales tax on spell components. They easily get a number of nobles in on the plot because the King is making it harder for them to exploit the commoners on their land.
It Gets Easier: Touched on in Bloodhound where Beka overhears cage Dog Shales telling a coworker that she's started hitting her boy since taking the job.
Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: This is accepted practice by Dogs (see Police Brutality below), although how well it does works varies. Still, we have plenty of scenes where Tunstall thumps someone's head on the floor to get more information out of them and suchlike.
Jerkass Has a Point: Mistress Noll's motive in Terrier is that she wanted to escape the hellhole slum she was living on in a way that wouldn't end with her immobile from the back-breaking labour she'd need to do, and Tansy's childhood thefts meant a lot more work and lost money for her. Still, that doesn't in the least justify the murder of children.
Karma Houdini: Nomalla in Mastiff. She eventually helped the protagonists escape, but she isn't punished at all for her prior role in the attempted coup, and she's clearly only sorry that her father's actions have ruined their house and that the prince was so horribly abused- she never shows regret or upset over all the damage the plot caused and everyone else it hurt. Beka objects, but her protests are overruled.
Laser-Guided Amnesia: It's revealed that Pounce/Faithful did this on George so that he wouldn't remember that Beka's cat had purple eyes, just like Alanna's.
Little Miss Con Artist: Beka stops a pickpocketing team who uses a little girl running into the street as a distraction while her partner takes the purse.
Love Makes You Evil: In Mastiff, Tunstall turns traitor because he wants to be good enough for Lady Sabine (i.e. class-wise) and the villain offers him a noble title. She's not happy about this.
Loveable Rogue: Rosto, Kora, and Aniki, although only Rosto is The Rogue. The former Corus Rogue was decidely unloveable.
Love Triangle: Although the men never meet each other, Rosto is not happy to hear that Beka found a boyfriend while she was in Port Caynn, and several times throughout the book she compares Rosto and Dale, with mixed feelings.
Mama Bear: Horrifically averted at more than one point. Although many of the major characters express disgust and dismay at child slavery and child-killings, often mentioning that child killers are given the most brutal of sentences and that those that get away are often taken down by vigilantes, that doesn't stop some women from ignoring their maternal instinct. One woman attempted to use the Shadow Snake to hide the fact that she sold her child into slavery. Another smothered her child to death because her new lover didn't want to live with children. The woman responsible for starting and leading the Shadow Snake killings was, herself, a mother. Why? Self-entitlement. She felt that she deserved the nice things she ransomed more than those she took them from. This is in exchange for the lives of children!
Mauve Shirt: Verene in Terrier. She's another Puppy, one of Beka's friends, but ends up getting killed in the line of duty.
Mister Muffykins: The Butterfly Pups in Mastiff, bred at Queensgrace to be ladies' lapdogs. They do have some useful qualities, though.
Must Let Them Get Away: The second type in Bloodhound. A noble is convicted of a crime, but is given a lesser sentence due to his family connections.
Nice Girl: Mistress Catfoot in Mastiff is one of the rare Mages who are both incredibly powerful and genuinely nice people. She doesn't care for money or status, and generally keeps to herself, but will gladly go out of the way to help the royal family and, by extension, Beka's party of Dogs, for several reasons: the King and Queen don't tax the poor, they're loving parents, their son is missing and magically being used against them, and helping them could potentially prevent a full-scale civil war.
Sir Tullus: If she cares nothing for money or status, why would she help Their Majesties?
Farmer:She loves children, and she likes me. [...] She wouldn't have come if His Majesty were one of those warlike kings, or of civil war were not a possible outcome of all of this.
Nice to the Waiter: Beka also has a few moments in Bloodhound where she intentionally leaves food for the young girl who is spying on her for the Court of the Rogue, since she knows that the girl probably is not well fed and Beka used to be in a similar situation herself. The girl later helps her escape and find what she needs to take the Rogue in.
Noodle Incident: Pearl makes several references to Nestor knowing full well what happens to people who try to take her down. Whatever she's referring to goes unexplained.
No Ontological Inertia: Mage marks in Terrier. They're used to kill the marked person should they talk to the police, but if the mage dies, the marks lose their power.
Not So Different: It's noted more than once that the line between police and criminals is thin, and it's not unusual for them to be friends with each other, so long as they're careful not to force the other to interfere with their respective jobs.
Obstructive Bureaucrat: Lord Lionel of Trebond. He's very reluctant to do much police work at all after his family was threatened by Pearl Skinner.
Occult Blue Eyes: Beka. Several characters mention it, and Beka herself notes it whenever she sees someone with the same.
Off with His Head!: Happens at the end of Mastiff to Prince Baird for his complicity in the plot against his brother.
One-Paragraph Chapter: Two. In one, our protagonist/journal-keeper has been awake far too long and can't stay up long enough to write down everything in her journal. In the other, she's just drunk.
One Steve Limit: It actually works against Bloodhound, where the book acts like we're supposed to be surprised that a guy named Hanse that Beka knows is the same Hanse that we've heard is involved with the coles.
Painting the Medium: The prologue chapters have different fonts to show that they're diary entries from three people. They're also informal fonts, although Beka's font is a standard serif. Some pages also have inkstains or pawprints on them.
Police Are Useless: The Night Watch is universally made up of the worst Dogs—lazy, particularly corrupt, drunk, what-have-you. When Goodwin, Tunstall, and Beka get caught up in a bar brawl during a shift change, the Night Watch Dogs make sure to show up after it's over. They only got out because Lady Sabine happened to be there.
Police Brutality: Dogs are instructed not to hit suspects unless they're really sure it'll be useful, and Beka herself engages in the practice several times. The "Cage Dogs" in the jails are outright torturers who get bonus pay for their willingness to do the work—we get a scene of them waterboarding a prisoner in Bloodhound.
Police Procedural: Although there's not a lot of actual paperwork, Beka details the routines for checking in prisoners, equipment issue, court day, bribe collections, etcetera.
Polyamory: A low-key version in Terrier, where Rosto is sleeping with Aniki and Kora in the first part of the book, before Kora decides she'd rather be with somebody else.
Powder Keg Crowd: A couple of times. When they finally find the dead diggers near the end of Terrier, Beka is unsettled by how quiet the crowd is and sure enough, fighting soon breaks out over the heinous evidence of the crime. In Bloodhound, a crowd angry over the rising price of bread quickly turns into a mob that sets the offending shop on fire, among other things.
Put on a Bus: Just about every Corus character in Mastiff. Justified in that most of the action takes place in other locations, but it's still a bit jarring when important characters like Goodwin, Rosto (who had major Ship Tease with Beka and was expected to be her endgame love interest, though Pierce thinks it wouldn't have lasted), Ersken, and Kora and Aniki only have a sentence or two devoted to them.
Prolonged Prologue: Terrier starts with three prologues in the form of diary entries. One is by Eleni Cooper worrying about her son George, one is by Beka's mother Ilony, and the third is by Tunstall. (Since the book is a doorstopper, though, it's only 2% of the overall booknote 15/563).
Reality Ensues: The climax of Bloodhound involves a knife-fight in an Absurdly Spacious Sewer. It takes a tremendous effort on the part of the healers to make sure Beka and Pearl don't die of massive infection.
Reverse Whodunnit: Beka and her partners figure out that Crookshank is the one behind the fire opals and mass disappearances early in Terrier, so their main problem is finding the evidence to arrest him; meanwhile, the Shadow Snake is a classic whodunnit. Similar occurs in Bloodhound. They figure out that Pearl is the colemonger halfway through the book, they just need evidence, and for Sir Lionel to regain his nerve.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: Queen Jessamine, Roger's second wife, was raised to be one of these. She manages to turn 'Randy Roger' into one too—he very suddenly takes an interest in what his ministers and tax collectors are actually doing because he doesn't want to look like an idiot in front of his newlywed wife. Said ministers are... rather put out by this.
Sacrificial Lamb: In Terrier, Beka's friend and fellow Puppy, Verene, is killed in a fight when her training partners are drunk. Afterwards, Beka notes in her journal the statistic that two out of ten trainees die on the job.
Serial Killer: There are two different cases in Terrier. One is obviously Crookshank, who is murdering the people he hire to mine fire opals to keep the secret. The second is the Shadow Snake, who extorts poor families for their few valuables by kidnapping their children and murdering them if not paid. It's not until the end that Beka realizes it's Deirdry Noll.
Series Continuity Error: In Mastiff Beka's estranged sister's name changes from Diona to Dorine; there's no mention of the house Kora and Ersken were talking about at the end of the last book, with only a brief mention of "Kora's room" still being where it always was; and Nilo rather than Will is a palace courier.
She Cleans Up Nicely: Subverted. Beka hates the way men treat her just because she's prettied up and not in a Dog uniform, but she gets through it by constantly reminding herself that she's undercover.
Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: The books take place before slavery was outlawed in Tortall. Parents sometimes sell children they can't afford to keep, and any slave trader is likely to have kidnapped children (which is illegal). Mastiff in particular focuses on the suffering of slaves and the host of secondary evils that the trade causes since Prince Gareth is being hidden as a slave. King Roger and Queen Jessamine declare a gradual abolition of slavery as a result.
Social Services Does Not Exist: No really, it doesn't. When Jack Ashmiller goes missing, his landlord kicks his three children out into the street to beg and Beka takes them in herself to protect them from slavers and the many other evils that can befall street children.
Stern Chase: Mastiff is one big long one of these, only it's inverted—it's Beka and her dogs who are chasing the people who abducted the child prince.
Strange Cop In A Strange Land: Beka and Goodwin spend most of Bloodhound in Port Caynn, where they find the police force and Rogue system completely out of whack. Beka eventually tells Lord Lionel that he is full of, ahem, scummer when he goes into a panic over the thought of arresting Pearl Skinner and is nearly killed as a result.
Thieves' Guild: A major part of the series. The Dogs have regular dealings with them, and there seems to be one in each major city. Although they are criminal headquarters, smart ones will also help the local community by storing up grain and other necessities for sale to people who can't afford legal prices.
Title Drop: In each book, Beka gets nicknamed the eponymous breed of dog by the end.
Torture Always Works: Subverted. Torture is what the Provost's Guard uses in questioning only because they have to go through an absurd amount of expense and red tape for easily-available truth spells.
Translation Convention: Beka's diary is actually written in cipher, as she explains in Bloodhound, to prevent a Fridge Logic moment where we wonder what happens if the diary is stolen in the middle of an investigation.
Trilogy: In technical terms, it comes in three books. However, each book has a self-contained plot because the major case(s) are solved before The End.
Unfortunate Implications: This occurs in-universe with female guards, seeing as guards are mostly referred to as Dogs (or Puppies when they're in training). In Bloodhound, it is specifically mentioned that calling a guard a "bitch" is a good way to get a baton in the face.
Ahuda does some badass reclaiming in Terrier, though.
Ahuda: You tell me nothin' in my kennel. Here, I am Queen Bitch, and you will muzzle yourself.
Similarly with the Church of the Mother, a religion rising in popularity at the time which emphasizes roles for women that are so archaically traditional that it's treated as bizarre even by the setting's standards. That doesn't stop Beka and co from taking advantage of it, though.
Unusual Euphemism: Beka's sarden, which, combined with her lower-class slang and Kyprish commands to her dog, can result in some nigh-incomprehensible sentences. There is luckily a guide in the back of the books defining what everything means to make it easier.
Vengeance Feels Empty: In Bloodhound, Hanse's ghost is not sorry at all for trying to ruin Tortall's entire economy, but he does say that it feels very hollow to look at it from death.