Recent Reading: Mystery & History

The other day I finished reading Spencer Quinn’s The Dog Who Knew Too Much, the fourth installment in the Chet and Bernie series (following Dog on It, Thereby Hangs a Tail, and To Fetch a Thief).  I love these books because of Chet, the canine narrator of the stories.  Chet comes about as close as I can imagine to what our dogs just might be thinking about us, and about the world.  Chet thinks that Bernie Little, his companion and proprietor of the Little Detective Agency, is just about the best human being in the world; all Chet wants from life is the chance to help Bernie solve a mystery.  Well, that and the occasional gourmet dog biscuit.  And maybe a hot dog.  Or a plate of barbecue.  And was that a squirrel that just went by? 

Chet observes everything going on around him, when he’s not distracted by an interesting smell or a scrap of forgotten food, even if he doesn’t always quite understand.  His attempts to follow conversations and clues are utterly doggish, but he always comes through when Bernie needs him.   The Dog Who Knew Too Much involves a missing child, an abandoned mine, and small town corruption, but to my mind the mystery takes a back seat to Chet and his relationship with Bermie and the other humans in his world. 

Rumor has it–well, actually I read this on the Twitter feed on Chet’s blog–that the next volume in the series will be called A Fistful of Collars.  I’ll be watching for it.

Another series I love is Janet Evanovich’s saga of Stephanie Plum, and I finished reading Explosive Eighteen last night.  There are several mysteries in the book (the most interesting being what the heck happened in Hawaii to send Stephanie scurrying back to Trenton with a tan line on her ring finger), a couple of explosions, and at least one funeral to keep Grandma Mazur happy.  Not to mention the nightmare of Joyce Barnhardt camping out in Stephanie’s apartment.  Evanovich’s characters bring me back time after time.  I’m always happy to spend an evening or two with Stephanie and her friends.  In Explosive Eighteen, Stephanie once again has Lula, the reformed ‘ho and stunningly unique fashion maven, at her side, and both Morelli and Ranger watching her back.  (Stephanie remains undecided, but I’m definitely on Team Morelli.)

Meanwhile, on my Kindle, I recently finished reading Tom Standage’s A History of the World in 6 Glasses, which I downloaded when it was Amazon’s Special of the Day a few weeks ago.  It caught my eye because I have enjoyed Standage’s work in the past, particularly The Victorian Internet, a history of telegraphy in the nineteenth century, which I read while doing research for Paper Hearts.  I also have a paper copy of his An Edible History of Humanity, which I picked up at the Border’s going-out-of-business sale. 

In A History of the World in 6 Glasses, Standage follows the development–and influence–of six beverages:  beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola, drawing a remarkable series of connections and comparisons.  A rewarding read for anyone interested in the broad sweep of history.

Just before Christmas, two of my friends (one woman and one man, who don’t know each other) recommended the novels of Vince Flynn to me with great enthusiasm, so when I saw his Transfer of Power on the Kindle freebie list (publisher’s marketing ploy:  lots of teasers for later books included) I downloaded it.  I started reading it the other morning while waiting for my car to be inspected, but one of the men at the station decided to entertain me with a description of the house he’s renovating, so I didn’t get far.  I read a bit more at lunch that day and got up to the 4% mark (there’s one thing I don’t much like about the Kindle:  4% of what?  page 4 of 100?  page 16 of 400?  I want to know how long the darn book is!).  Maybe I’m just not in the mood for a politico-techno thriller, but I can’t seem to care that much.  Perhaps I’ll come back to it one of these days, but for now I think I’ll try one of the forty or fifty other books stashed on my Kindle.  Life is too short to spend time reading a book I’m not enjoying.

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