Books Read in 2016: ‘Dog on It’ by Spencer Quinn (4.25 stars)
As sidekicks, Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 have nothing on Chet and Bernie. This charming detective duo make their debut in Dog On It, the first volume in Spencer Quinn’s new mystery series.
Bernie’s enterprise, the Little Detective Agency, limps along, waiting for the next job to arrive. While Chet freely admits that he doesn’t always understand the humans around him, the mutt who failed to graduate from the police academy quickly establishes that he’s got a nose made for sniffing out trouble — as well as the tasty morsel.
But their luck is about to change. During a nighttime stroll through the neighborhood — an older enclave in the southwestern desert that Bernie fears will soon be eclipsed by new development — the pair encounter a panicked neighbor, Cynthia Chambliss. Waving a wad of bills, she beseeches Bernie to find her daughter, Madison, a 15-year-old who has been missing for several hours.
Bernie heeds the call of cash and the urgency of parental concern, leading Bernie and Chet on a trail of clues that leads them into more danger than they’d bargained for.
My GR Status Update(s):
07/25 . . .marked as: currently-reading
07/26 . . .55% “This is one of those books that I actually had to force myself to stop reading last night because it was almost 3 a.m.”
07/31 . . .marked as: read
I’ve actually had this book sitting in my Audible library for a few years, and just never got around to listening to it. But now that I’m knocking out the remaining letters in my A to Z reading challenge for this year, I figured there was no time like the present, since this fit in quite nicely with an author last name starting with Q. And since my library had it as an ebook, which I have more time for these days than audiobooks, I read the Kindle version—and enjoyed it so much I’ll definitely be listening to the audiobook sometime soon!
Chet is our main, first-“person” narrative character in this story. Chet also happens to be a dog. A dog who flunked out of the police K-9 academy at the last minute. And Chet has a very unique perspective on things. Let me let Chet introduce both himself and his human, Bernie, a private investigator, to you in his own words:
Sure. We needed money in the worst way. Our finances were a mess—alimony, child support, Hawaiian pants, and almost no revenue except for divorce work. Bernie went over and over that, almost every night. An ant, one of those juicy black ones, appeared from under the stove and tried to run right by me. What was he thinking? I hardly had to move my tongue. Bernie always stressed the importance of protein in the diet.
While the mystery in this mystery novel isn’t really that intricate or well-hidden (I had it figured out pretty much from the beginning—and I’m not an avid mystery reader—which is what kept this from being a solid 5-star read), it’s actually secondary to just reading Chet’s views on life and what’s going on around him, as well as his view of Bernie’s job:
Stakeouts: I’ve sat through a million. Okay, possibly not a million. Truth is, I’m not too sure about a million, what it means, exactly—or any other number, for that matter—but I get the drift from Bernie. A million means a lot, like “out the yingyang,” another favorite number of Bernie’s, maybe even bigger.
One of the most interesting things about having this mystery written from Chet’s POV is that there are certain things that Chet notices/experiences that he cannot tell Bernie, or anyone else, about. There are also times at which he and Bernie are separated. You’d think this would take away from the forward momentum of the story, but Quinn uses this as a great way of actually upping the tension of the story simply because Chet doesn’t know what’s going on with Bernie when they’re apart. There’s also the frustration, as a reader, of knowing what Chet knows but also knowing that Chet can’t communicate it. All-in-all, it’s a conceit that works quite well in this author’s deft hands.
There’s a cute, ongoing joke that Quinn implements which hints at backstory, roughly sketching in the rich tapestry of both Chet’s and Bernie’s history, apart as well as together. Mention is made of Chet’s failure of his final test at the K-9 police academy—there was a cat involved, but we don’t know specifics. Then there are passages like this:
“Graduated first in his class at K-9 school.”
That was stretching it a little, since I hadn’t actually graduated, which is how Bernie and I ended up together, a long story I’ll go into later if I have a chance.
In fact, there are a few things in this story that Chet will get into “later if I have a chance.” None of which this story actually circles back to. Which has the effect of making it even more fun—and building anticipation to read the further books in the series.
Another interesting thing that Quinn does with Chet is that sometimes his memory of things that have happened just a few chapters before fades—or he’s distracted by something that a dog would absolutely be distracted by. Which, again, adds to the humor.
In closing, I wanted to share the passage that made me laugh the hardest. I don’t know why, out of all of the humorous passages in the book this one struck me funniest, but I had to put my Kindle down, I was laughing so hard.
Bernie was wearing one of his best Hawaiian shirts, the one with the martini-glass pattern. I wore my brown leather collar with the silver tags; I’ve also got a black one for dress-up.
My rating matrix:
5 STARS = one of the best I’ve ever read
4 STARS = a great read, highly recommended
3 STARS = it was okay
2 STARS = I didn’t enjoy it all that much, not recommended
1 STAR = DNF (did not finish)
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