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Mswas’ CBR-III Review #30-33 – Chet and Bernie series by Spencer Quinn

12/31/2011

Dog On It, by Spencer Quinn

What a great series!  Dog On ItThereby Hangs a Tail, To Fetch a Thief, and The Dog Who Knew Too Much feature two detectives, Chet and Bernie. Our narrator, Chet, happens to be a dog. A former K-9, Chet considers himself Bernie’s partner, and so does Bernie.

Chet is a wonderful narrator, funny, likeable and easily distracted by squirrels and clues alike. Chet’s perception of our world and his inability to understand why humans do some of the things they do are insightfully covered by author, Spencer Quinn. Chet tends to go off on tangents and no tale is told in a straight line.

“Her eyes glistened up. This was always pretty interesting, the crying thing; not the sound–Icould relate to that–but the waterworks, as Bernie called them, especially when Leda was on the producing end. They get upset, humans, and then water comes out of their eyes, especially the women. What is that all about? Bernie gazed down at the ground, shuffled his feet; he didn’t have a handle on it, either, although I’d once seen water seeping out of his own eyes, namely the day Leda had packed up all Charlie’s things. Charlie was their kid–Bernie and Leda’s–and now lived with Leda except for visits. We missed him, me and Bernie.”

Chet’s pretty astute, even when he doesn’t realize it.

The four books in the series were just as enjoyable, one after the other:

Dog On It

In this, the first in the series, we’re introduced to Chet and Bernie as they are hired to find a teenaged girl being held for ransom as her father’s business dealings went South. Russian gangsters, bikers, and a mine figure into Chet and Bernie’s travels. We meet the ex and Bernie’s son, as well as a reporter, Suzie Sanchez. Not everyone is a fan of Chet, or just dogs in general. The mother of the missing girl, asks if Chet is dangerous.

“He won’t bite you.”

Of course I wouldn’t. But the idea was planted in my head, for sure. I could tell by all the saliva suddenly pooling in my mouth.

An excellent first novel, I was hooked.

Thereby Hangs a Tail

The setting for the second novel is the dog show world, and we get to meet another of Chet’s ilk, Princess. We’ve already met Chet’s neighbor, Ike, and while we’re not privy to any other being’s thoughts, Chet’s ideas about Princess are very entertaining.

“The client is a dog?”

I sat up. Bernie was gazing at the photo. I could see it, too. One of my guys was in the picture? Where? And then I spotted her: a tiny fluffball with huge dark eyes, reclining on a satin pillow. I knew satin pillows on account of Leda having had one, although it got chewed up in a kind of frenzy, the details of the episode not too clear in my mind. But that satin taste: so strange and interesting, a vivid memory. I glanced around the Dry Gulch bar: no satin in view.

I went to the pond and lapped up a little drink. Princess appeared beside me. She didn’t have to dip her head to drink, already being right down on pond level. Out came her tongue, so tiny, and she started lapping. Lapping and lapping: it went on and on. How could all that water fit in her? At the same time I noticed how careful she was to keep her paws out of the pond. Why? I had no idea, but began to think that of all the members of the nation within the nation I’d come across in my career, there hadn’t been any like Princess.

To Fetch a Thief

What’s stolen in this the third novel, is big, very big. An elephant named Peanut is stolen from a small travelling circus, and his trainer, Uri, is missing as well.  Bernie takes his son, Charlie, to the circus and lo and behold, they stumble into a mystery! It’s not as trite as that, and the relationship between Chet, Bernie and Charlie is well done. Again we get Chet’s take on another animal, so in some sense this volume is a bit of a copy of the second novel. I still enjoyed it.

The Dog Who Knew Too Much

Another child is in trouble, and his mother has hired Bernie. This time he’s hired to pose as a “friend” of the mother during a visit to the summer camp the boy attends. Suzie Sanchez winds up with a much bigger role in this book, and her interactions with Chet are really great.

Suzie, part way to the car, had stopped and turned toward me. We exchanged looks.

“Ch – et?”

She said that just like Bernie. I left the doorstep and went over to her. We got in the Beetle and backed out of the driveway.

Suzie drove up the street, turned onto the next one, then the next one, and – hey! we were doing the round-the-block trick, one of our best moves, mine and Bernie’s! Suzie was catching on.

Suzie does catch right on, and saves the day if I may say so without being called out for too big of a spoiler.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the Chet and Bernie series so far, and I will definitely be looking for more. I hope you do too.

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