Friday, September 7, 2012

The Dog Who Knew Too Much ~ Spencer Quinn

Though the Dog Days of summer may be past us, I have a couple of dog books to review and thought I would post their reviews together, today - here's the first:

Chet & Bernie Mystery series: #1 #2 #3

The Dog Who Knew Too Much (Chet & Bernie Mystery #4)
September 6, 2011
320 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

Police K-9 drop (or rather, fail) out Chet and his human partner in the Little Detective Agency, Bernie Little are back for a fourth adventure.

When Bernie's hired to give the keynote at the Great Western Private Eye Convention he's worried about the speech and speaking in public - Chet's more interested in their getting paid. But, as it turns out, it's really Chet, the best of the best, that the PI in charge has his eye on.

When Bernie's hired to do bodyguard work for a woman picking her son up from camp, it seems like it will be an easy weekend in the woods. Not their usual case, but the chance to make some money without taking a dreaded divorce case.

Then a child goes missing - and Bernie's hired to find him. With the boy missing from the wilderness camp, all the campers, the counselors and the parents are questioned. Bernie thinks the boy's father's involved, but questionable characters from the isolated, wooded area around the camp soon start entering the picture.

Will Bernie and Chet be able to find the culprit, find the boy, keep from getting separated - and keep everyone safe?

If it's not obvious already, by this being the fourth in this series that I've reviewed (with the fifth very soon to come), I love these books. I do, admittedly, have a fondness for dog books, yes - but only good ones. If an author sticks a dog in a book but the rest of the book isn't up to par or the dog's just there as a gimmick, that will turn me off faster than nothing canine related at all.

That's what's so perfect about Spencer Quinn's series.

The series continues to be narrated by Chet in a way where the narration adds to not only a reader's enjoyment of the story, but also how information is conveyed, how some might be withheld (without it being frustrating or creating gaps), as well as the development and understanding of the characters.

Through Chet we're able to see the different emotions people convey, likely differently than a person would perceive them (ie Chet knows Bernie's nods, notices people's shrugs, etc). In Quinn's keeping Chet's mind very canine, Chet tends to think of things that seem very random, bringing up past criminals or captures at odd times, but occasionally they do actually play into what's happening. If nothing else, they're entertaining.

Chet also tends to tune out the parts of conversations he finds boring. As he finds himself separate from Bernie and in the company of those planning the dastardly deeds - whether he knows it or not - this ends up actually being a necessity for readers. If Chet listened to entire conversations, took everything in, readers would know the end somewhere around the middle of the story. It not only keeps the story suspenseful as it unravels, it keeps Chet fun.

In this way - how serious, sometimes tense things can be going on that reading it, you're sure are going to be important but Chet would rather take a nap or think about a squirrel from three months ago - and how quickly he can jump into action, he reminds me of Rex from Il commissario Rex. (No, I don't ever know that much of what's going on in an Italian show dubbed in Spanish, but I"m working on it.)

Il commissario Rex

Though the general big plot points: [semi, semi spoilery]  almost stumble onto a big mystery while doing something else, investigate, get separated, Chet's in danger, etc. [ / spoilery ]seem to follow from one book to the next, the plots themselves are so different that it doesn't feel formulaic. Or only formulaic in that this is a mystery and all mysteries follow a general arc.

This installment didn't have as much of the secondary characters - Suzie, Charlie, Lela - but it was a nice balance after the last book and with Bernie and Chet not in town, it made sense to have the character not there. It's also clear that they're not completely removed from the picture, either.

Rating: 9/10


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