Author: Spencer Quinn
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Year: 2010
Read: July 2013
Where It Came From: Bought It
Rating: 4 Sassy Circus Elephants
The Quick and Dirty:
Bernie Little, private detective, and his dog Chet are back and solving more mysteries in the American Southwest. The 3rd entry in this series finds the team investigating the disappearance of a circus elephant and her trainer on a twisty trail that leads them down Mexico way. Engaging, easy read with some genuinely poignant moments along the way. I heart these books so much!
The Wordy Version:
Seriously, I do heart these books so much. They are narrated by the black-and-white mutt (I may be biased there, if you’ve met my own dog) Chet, which is both hilarious and an awesome take on the way the canine mind may work. It’s like Hank the Cowdog for grownups! Chet is a great character—he is easily distracted by food, can’t count beyond 2, and often loses his train of thought right before an epiphany, but he is smart, determined, and more loyal than any human could ever ask for. And an amusing narrator to boot! The books are just so well-written. The style is deceptively simple, but with an understated depth that I haven’t often come across in my years of mystery reading. Chet may not always understand the intricacies of the human interactions going on around him, but his observation and reporting of them make it crystal clear to the reader what is really going on with all the human players in the story. Very clean and smart writing.
I love Bernie. We only get bits and pieces of his background (Gulf War vet, divorced with a young son), but he is clearly a great guy. He’s kind of shuffling-shambling disguising his intellect à la Columbo, and he’s got such a good heart. And he really, really loves Chet. Being a dog-lover myself, I can really connect with that aspect of the book. His interactions and relationship with his dog are touching, and his respect for animals in general makes the reader in turn respect his character (unless the reader has no heart, in which case, the reader should maybe not be reading this book). Bernie and Chet are truly a team, and both parties make equal contributions the resolution of their investigations.
I don’t want to get too much into the plot here—the basic shape of it is pretty much covered in the Quick and Dirty. While it’s not a whoa, big twist! kind of mystery, a lot of the fun is still in watching it unfold. As usual in the Chet and Bernie books, the side characters have a depth that we can pick up on without the author having to spend a lot of time spelling it out for us. There is a side plot involving Bernie’s ex-wife and her boyfriend, which manages to add a sort of sense of closure, rather than distract from the main plot. If I had any complaint about the story, it’s that it was a little light on love interest Suzie Sanchez this time around. But when the story draws to a close, the little bit of her we got throughout the book ends up being the perfect amount. SO WELL-WRITTEN!!!
Solid writing, engaging story, main characters that are easy to love. If you like animals, dogs, mysteries, any combination of these things, or none of these things at all, then you should probably check out this series, stat.
OH P.S. You know how most books about animals involve said animals dying? Yeah. I hate that. That’s why I don’t often read books about animals, because THEY DESTROY ME INSIDE. So, in case you’re like me in that respect, spoiler alert! Chet doesn’t die. At least he hasn’t yet. And I think they’re up to 6 books in the series now, so that’s a good sign!