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Friday, May 31, 2013

DOG ON IT: A Chet and Bernie Mystery

4 stars (out of 5)

Admittedly, I'm a bit of a sucker for books that involve cats and dogs. I never missed a single one of "The Cat Who..." mystery novels by the late Lilian Jackson Braun, for instance - I loved the antics (and murder-solving abilities of KoKo and Yum-Yum, the two Siamese cats owned by former newspaper reporter James Qwilleran. And one of my favorite books of all time is Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain.

So when one of my e-newsletters arrived from announcing availability of this book for $2.99 at, I read the description, noted the average of 4-1/2 stars from 448 customer reviews and didn't "paws" long before hitting the "Buy Now" button.

Still, there's always a bit of concern over wasting time and money (even if it's just a little bit) as I Fire up my Kindle and navigate to the first page. Will it be a clunker after all? That feeling hung around for less than three pages, I'm happy to report - that's when something I read made me chuckle right out loud. Okay, I said to myself - we're good to go.

The books are narrated by Chet, a lovable dog who's loyal to Bernie and very smart (but not smart enough to avoid flunking out of K-9 police school). He's owned by Bernie, a relatively small-time private investigator who has to scramble to have enough money for his breakfast eggs. They're called to investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl who's gone missing and may (or may not) be the victim of a kidnapping. She turns up safe and sound, but days later she's gone again. Bernie's suspicious, and Chet's keen sense of smell tells him something's not quite kosher as well.

The search takes them to the desert, biker bars and abandoned mines, threatening both their lives at various stops along the way. Each step is described in typical doggie fashion by Chet, who does a pretty good job of figuring out what humans are up to even though he can't quite get a grip on emotions (smells, on the other hand, he's got down to a science).

The book is well written and the plot is for the most part plausible (if perhaps not the most gripping, edge-of-seat story I've ever read). Best of all, it's just fun; Chet's take on things can be a bit of a hoot - or should I say bark. All in all, an outstanding debut novel. Even better, it’s the first in a series, followed by A Fistful of Collars, The Dog Who Knew Too Much, To Fetch a Thief and Thereby Hangs a Tail. I’ve already read Fistful - but I’ll let you try this one before I start howling the praises of that one.

Dog On It: A Chet and Bernie Mystery by Spencer Quinn (Atria Books February 2009); 324 pp.

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