Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Dog's Life... of Mystery!

I am not - generally speaking - much of a fan of literary "gimmicks," especially in mystery fiction, but a while back (I forget how - maybe through an Amazon "recommendation") I became aware of the "Chet & Bernie" mystery novels by Spencer Quinn (real name: Peter Abrahams), about a hardluck private eye named Bernie Little, and his canine partner, Chet... mysteries narrated by Chet. Yeah. The dog.

I don't know why, but that intrigued me, especially since the reader reviews on Amazon and other sites were generally very positive. So, I put the first book in the series, Dog On It, onto my Amazon wishlist, and figured I'd pick it up one of these days.

Well, on Friday, Brandi took a half day off from work, and with my jury service completed, we made an afternoon of it. We went to Longhorn steakhouse for an early dinner, and then went to see the last Harry Potter film. We had an hour to kill between those two activities, however, so we dropped by the local Barnes & Noble to browse around a bit. There, I happened to find the first and third "Chet & Bernie" novels in trade paperback, and remembered my interest in them. But at $15 each, it was a bit more than I could justify spending (money's tight for most of us these days), especially since I wasn't really sure if I'd like them, and they didn't have book 2 on the shelf. But, as we were leaving, I found the first two books - in their original hardcover editions - on the bargain table for only about $6 each. Two books for $12 seemed like a deal that made more sense, so I picked up Dog On It and Thereby Hangs A Tail (mystery writers love their puns, don't they?) and headed off to the movie.

I've already read the first book and am about halfway through the second. I'm kinda surprised, because I've had difficulty focusing on reading anything of length lately (my TBR pile holds the last two Robert Crais "Joe Pike" novels, the last two Spillane/Collins "Mike Hammer" books, the last two "Alex Rider" adventures from Anthony Horowitz, and Carte Blanche, the new Bond book by Jeffrey Deaver - all books that normally would get read immediately upon purchase, and quickly completed, at that!). But the "voice" that Quinn has created for his canine narrator is truly engaging, and I have been well and truly engaged.

The concept is ridiculous and impossible, of course, but Quinn manages to make it somehow believable. Chet (plain and simple) certainly possesses an astounding vocabulary, but his reactions, distractions, observations and obsessions are somehow... right. Chet's loyalty to his "partner," joy in life's simple pleasures, confusion over abstracts like finances, and overall ability to live completely in the present, all make for a unique and comforting read -- and apparently, these books were exactly what I needed right now.

As mysteries, they're not all that challenging, but they're surprisingly involving and enjoyable reads, and if you're someone who doesn't mind a little goofiness in your crime fiction, you might want to check them out for yourself. Me, I need to find that third book cheap now.... (Wait? There's four books?!)

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