Dogged Detectives

I have waited (and I’m sure I’m far from the only one) four years for Heart of Barkness, Spencer Quinn’s ninth Chet and Bernie mystery. The previous installment, Scents and Sensibility, came out in July 2015, and (minor spoiler here) left Bernie, the human half of the team, deep in a coma from which no one expected him to recover. No one, that is, except his canine partner Chet, the narrator of the series.

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Quinn took his time getting back to Chet and Bernie. He also writes for middle graders as Spencer Quinn and adult novels as Peter Abrahams, and the Chet and Bernie stories have moved to a different publisher.

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In Heart of Barkness Chet and Bernie become involved with Lottie Pilgrim, a nearly forgotten country singer accused of murder. Bernie is sure there’s more to the story, and Chet, as always, is sure that Bernie is the smartest person in the world. Together they track down the secrets of Lottie’s past, despite her insistence that she’s guilty as charged.

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Somehow Quinn manages to capture the thought processes of Chet (a hundred-plus pound dog of indeterminate breed who flunked out of K9 training—there may have been a cat involved—but landed happily with Bernie Little) without making him sound like a furry human, while still communicating the story. Chet’s memory may be patchy and his attention span short, but he’ll do anything for Bernie. And happily for those of us who love him, a note at the end of Heart of Barkness promises a new adventure next summer.

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The Silence of the Chihuahuas is, alas, the last (to date, anyway) of Waverly Curtis’ Barking Detective series, featuring Pepe, the intrepid Chihuahua private investigator who talks to his human partner, Geri Sullivan. In this installment, however, Pepe has stopped speaking to Geri because other people think she’s nuts when she tries to tell them about it. But never fear: Pepe has taken up blogging instead (although he admits that “some dog named Chet” writes an even more popular blog). In Silence, Pepe and Geri’s search for Geri’s long missing sister and her recently missing friend Brad takes them undercover at a mental hospital. Along the way they attend the disastrous wedding of Geri’s ex-husband, deal with Geri’s somewhat loony mentor Jimmy G., and engineer a better fate for Bruiser, a sad dog they met on an earlier case. There’s a murder, a kidnapping, and, of course, a happy ending. (There’s also a bonus Christmas story, A Chihuahua in Every Stocking.) This series is so much fun—I hope the authors decide to continue it.

Chet & Brigit: Dog Detectives

I don’t have a dog of my own these days, but I’ve been keeping up with the adventures of two favorite canine detectives, Spencer Quinn’s Chet and Diane Kelly’s Brigit.

 

Besides their work as investigators, Chet and Brigit have a few thing in common. Both are large dogs (one hundred pounds or so) of mixed heritage. Both survived stretches with thoroughly irresponsible early owners, did time in the pound, and were rescued as recruits for K9 service.

 

Chet washed out of his K9 course on the very last day. He’s not quite sure what happened, but he thinks a cat may have been involved. That failure was a stroke of luck in disguise, because it led to his adoption by Bernie Little, a private investigator and, in Chet’s opinion, the best human in the world.

 

Brigit, on the other hand, charged through K9 training like the alpha dog she is. She spent her first couple of years in the Forth Worth Police Department with an experienced male partner, but when he left the job, she was reassigned to a quick-tempered rookie officer, Megan Luz, who had recently tasered her male partner (The Big Dick) in a most sensitive location. Brigit thinks Megan is very green but trainable. Megan’s closet full of chewable shoes is a plus, as is her friendship with a fire department explosives expert and his bomb-sniffing dog, Blast, just the sort of beta male Brigit enjoys.

 

Chet is the narrator of Quinn’s Chet and Bernie mysteries, the latest of which (number eight) is Scents and Sensibility. The story starts with the mysterious appearance of an illegal saguaro cactus in Scents and Sensibilitythe neighbors’ front yard but quickly escalates to include murder and the missing ransom from a fifteen-year-old kidnapping. Chet’s best furry friend, Iggy, comes to visit and proves to be a less than satisfactory house guest, while Chet finds himself puzzling over a puppy named Shooter, whose scent and appearance are strangely familiar.

 

Here’s a little sample of Chet’s narrative style, picking up after he has lost track of Bernie’s conversation with a police detective in the parking lot of Donut Heaven: I looked up from what I was doing. Case closed? Had we even started yet? Cases at the Little Detective Agency almost always ended with me grabbing the perp by the pant leg. The only pants wearers in the picture at the moment were Bernie and Captain Stine. This can be a tricky job. I went back to the bear claw.

 

Brigit’s latest adventure, number three in Kelly’s K9 series, is Laying Down the Paw, in which Megan and Brigit survive a wild ride through a tornado, face down a band of looters, and search for a killer. Megan tells her story in first person, a boy named Dub tells his in third person, and Kelly Laying Down the Pawgives us a glimpse of Brigit’s reactions after each of Megan’s chapters.

 

Here’s Brigit, after meeting a pampered dachshund in the line of duty: She thanked her lucky stars she hadn’t been born a wiener dog. They were the laughingstocks of the canine world, what with their disproportionately long ears and stretched-out bodies and too-short legs. They looked as if they’d been assembled with spare parts. Yes, shepherds were a far superior breed. Stealthier, too. That’s how Brigit had gotten away with that poor little schmuck’s raccoon toy.

 

Megan took the stuffed raccoon away and returned it to the dachshund’s porch, but she also stopped at the pet store and bought Brigit a stuffed mallard, which Megan calls Duckie. Yeah, Brigit had Megan wrapped around her paw.

 

If you love dogs, humor, and mystery, you’ll love Chet and Bernie and Megan and Brigit.

The Adventures of Chet and Bernie

Spencer Quinn’s Paw and Order is the seventh installment in the Chet and Bernie mystery series. I’ve been a fan since the first book (Dog On It, 2009), and I read them as soon as I get my hands on them—no time on the To Be Read shelf for Chet and Bernie.

Paw and Order QuinnBernie Little is the head (and sole proprietor) of the Little Detective Agency, but the books are narrated by Chet, a one-hundred-pound-plus black and white dog of indeterminate breed, who came into Bernie’s world after flunking out of K9 training on the very last day (“There was a cat involved,” Chet remembers). Chet has a wonderful personality, alert, perceptive, and devoted to Bernie (the best human in the world), but he is also Everydog, prone to naps and impulsive barking, and easily distracted by a stray piece of bacon or a forgotten French fry (Squirrel!).

Through the first few books, the reader knows only that Chet and Bernie operate in The Valley, an unidentified area in the Southwest, where they run into a wide variety of perps (many of them, according to Chet, now wearing an orange jumpsuit or breaking rocks in the hot sun). They deal with missing teens (Dog On It), a pampered show dog (Thereby Hangs a Tail), a traveling circus (To Fetch a Thief), another missing child (The Dog Who Knew Too Much), and a visiting movie company (A Fistful of Collars). In last year’s installment, The Sound and the Furry, Chet and Bernie visit the Louisiana bayou country, where Chet meets an alligator and we learn that The Valley is in Arizona.

In Paw and Order, Bernie decides to make a detour to Washington DC to visit his girlfriend, Suzie Sanchez, a newspaper reporter. When one of Suzie’s sources is murdered and Bernie is framed for the crime, Chet is on the case. Along the way they meet government agents, foreign spies, a possible presidential candidate, Washington insiders, a strange bird with no feathers, and a guinea pig named Barnum.

Quinn has also written short stories to fill in a few of the incidents that Chet refers to now and then. In A Cat Was Involved, we finally learn exactly what happened on that fateful day when Chet somehow failed his final K9 Tail of Vengeanceleaping test (despite leaping being one of his best things) but met Bernie as a result. In The Iggy Chronicles, Volume 1, Chet and Bernie search for Chet’s missing BFF (best furry friend) Iggy, the dog next door. This year’s story, Tail of Vengeance, is waiting on my Kindle (how did I forget that? Was there possibly a cat involved?). It’s raining this morning—I think I’ll stretch out and read about the Teitelbaum case, one of those “stories for another time” that Chet so often mentions.

And then, alas, I’ll have to wait another year for a Chet and Bernie story. Or maybe I’ll just reread the whole series. Meanwhile, catch Chet’s doggy musings at Chet The Dog.

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