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.

Another Box of Books

When I got home from work last night, I found a lovely box of books on my doorstep. Now, you might think, with all the (mostly free) books I brought home from the RWA conference, that I wouldn’t need to be book shopping again any time soon. (Well, no, if you stop by here often, you wouldn’t think that at all.)

most books 2Ha! I always need books. I’m a book junkie. And the August release of books in two series that I never miss sent me mousing over to Amazon a couple of weeks ago to order them: Paw And Order, the latest Chet and Bernie mystery from Spencer Quinn, and Death, Taxes, and Silver Spurs, the latest adventure of Tara Holloway, Diane Kelly’s intrepid (and armed) IRS Special Agent. Chet, Bernie, and Tara are among my very favorite book people (well, Chet’s a dog, but he’s still a favorite character) and I never miss their stories.

As long as I was there (and making sure to order enough for free shipping—I have yet to succumb to the lures of Amazon Prime, for fear I would never be able to tear myself away from all those videos), I ordered Kate Parker’s The Counterfeit Lady (the second installment in the Victorian Bookshop Mysteries) and Lauren Christopher’s The Red Bikini, a contemporary romance set on a California beach.

I’d heard through the RWA grapevine that the writers who went to Lisa Cron’s workshop were raving about it, and about her book, Wired for Story, so I ordered that, too. Haven’t cracked it yet, but a friend who has been reading it assures me that she’s gotten a lot of ideas from it. The subtitle, The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence, is a bit intimidating (Brain Science? Really?), but I’m always up for a few nuggets of inspiration.

I wanted one more book from a series I’ve loved since its beginning, Marcia Muller’s The Night Searchers, the latest Sharon McCone mystery, but when I pulled it up on Amazon, it was listed at full price and with a possible two-week delay. Aha—published by Grand Central and caught in the ongoing feud between Amazon and Hachette.

So I moused on over to the Mystery Guild. I’ve belonged to the Mystery Guild and the Science Fiction Book Club since the pre-Internet days of the early 1970s, when I lived in a small town in Louisiana, thirty miles from the nearest book store (and short of money at that). Over at the Mystery Guild, I not only found The Night Searchers, but they were running a sale, so I preordered another series favorite, Margaret Maron’s latest Deborah Knott mystery, Designated Daughters, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ new release, Heroes Are my Weakness.

Then last weekend I went to a West Houston RWA meeting and bought three new books by chapter sisters: Sophie Jordan’s A Good Debutante’s Guide to Ruin (first in a new historical romance series), Shana Galen’s Love and Let Spy (third in the Lord and Lady Spy trilogy), and Heather MacAllister’s Taken By Storm (Harlequin Blaze romance).

Clearly, I’m still devoted to the paper book, but I’ve added several novels to my Kindle since the conference, too, some by friends, some through BookBub (even more temptation than the Kindle Daily Deal!). As soon as I find another day or two in the week to devote to reading, I’ll put up some more reviews.

Meanwhile, what are you reading?

Abibliophobia

Recent Reading

This evening I finished reading The Sound and the Furry, the sixth Chet and Bernie mystery by Spencer Quinn.  I enjoy this series so much that I went to my local Barnes and Noble a couple of weeks ago looking for the latest installment, and it did not disappoint.  The mysteries are always interesting, but the real charm of the books is their narrator, Chet, the canine half of the Little Detective Agency (Bernie Little being the human partner).  Chet’s interpretation of what’s going on is often hilarious, but clearly Bernie couldn’t have a better partner.  Open the book just about anywhere and you’ll find Chet’s take on Bernie (who can do no wrong), humans in general, and the joys of being a dog.

The Sound and the FurryHere’s an example:  “Batshit crazy,” Scooter said, hanging me up right there,  The night a bat flew into the house, back in the Leda days, and Bernie chasing after it with a broom, swatting and swatting the air!  Had I ever been more excited in my life?  The screams of Leda’s: I can still hear them.  Had the bat left any poop behind?  Would I have missed something like that? Does the bear shit in the woods?  That was too much.  I lost the thread completely.

Chet loses the thread quite often, distracted by a stray bit of bacon or an equally stray memory, but he always comes through for Bernie.  In The Sound and the Furry, the partners leave their Arizona home territory for a trip to Louisiana, where Chet enjoys some fascinating new smells and has a close encounter with an alligator.

Another mystery series I am enjoying comes from my friend Susan M. Boyer.  Last year Susan’s Lowcountry Boil won the Lowcountry BombshellAgatha Award for best first mystery.  Lowcountry Bombshell, the second adventure of South Carolina private investigator Liz Talbot, is, if anything, even better, involving a client who appears to be Marilyn Monroe’s doppelganger.  Calista McQueen was born exactly fifty years after Marilyn, and her life has mirrored the late actress’ in too many ways.  As she approaches the anniversary of Marilyn’s death, it becomes Liz’s job to make sure Calista doesn’t become a dead ringer.   By the time she reaches a solution, Liz finds herself in as much danger as Calista.

The Lowcountry mysteries are set on the coastal island of Stella Maris, populated with Liz’s family and friends (including one occasionally helpful ghost), and reading them is like going home with Liz for a visit.  I recommend them highly.  And if you like cozy mysteries, check out the rest of the Henery Press catalog.

A Visit to the Book Store

Every once in a while I remind myself that if we book buyers don’t buy at least some of our books at the remaining brick and mortar book stores, we have only ourselves to blame if those stores disappear.  So yesterday I drove over to the local Barnes & Noble, looking for two books in particular, but open to browsing.  And I didn’t even have a gift card.

The up side of book store shopping is good old instant gratification.  Yes, that’s always available on your e-reader, but if you want a physical book, even Amazon will make you wait a few days.

The down side, in a strange way, is the aforementioned browsing.  When I look for something on line, I usually know what I’m looking for, at least within limits.  When I wander through the aisles at B&N, I’m haunted by the knowledge that I’d really like to read about half of what I see, in spite of all those running feet of unread books waiting at home.  Cozy mysteries, which I love, seem to be taking over the racks, with backgrounds involving cooking, knitting, quilting, jewelry, witchcraft, and heaven knows what else.  They all sound like fun, and I will never get to most of them.

So I tend to feel a bit overwhelmed in a brick and mortar book store, and some times I go in with metaphorical blinkers on, protecting me from temptation.

Bad MonkeyThe first book that caught my eye as I walked in was Bad Monkey, the latest novel by Carl Hiaasen.  I’ve read all of Hiaasen’s hilariously wild novels, and I couldn’t pass this one up.  Even after reading the flap, I have no idea what part the titular monkey plays in the story, and I don’t care.  Perhaps because I lived in South Florida, where all Hiaasen’s tales are set, I have an extra appreciation for the ambiance, even though I haven’t been back in many years.

Then I went looking for the books I’d actually come in for.  The first was The Lotus Palace, by Jeannie Lin, who has proved The Lotus Palacethat there is in fact a market for romances set in ninth century China.  I’ve read several of her short novels and novellas set in that era and enjoyed them all.  The Lotus Palace is a longer book dealing with the courtesan culture of the Tang Dynasty, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

The Sound and the FurryNext on my list was The Sound and the Furry, Spencer Quinn’s latest installment in the adventures of Chet and Bernie Little, detectives extraordinaire.  Chet, who narrates the stories, is a dog who flunked out of police K9 training (“something about a cat,” as he vaguely recalls), and Quinn just nails his fuzzy, easily distracted, and totally loyal point of view.  I have all the previous Chet and Bernie mysteries on my shelf, and I was delighted to find this one (its official release date is still two days away).  The earlier stories have been set in an unnamed valley in the desert west (Bernie worries a lot about water conservation), but this time the team is headed for New Orleans.

I don’t read as much science fiction as I once did (but then I don’t seem to have time to read as much of anything as I used Mistto), but I let myself wander down those aisles, too, and there I spotted a novel by Susan Krinnard.  I read several of Krinnard’s futuristic romances when I was first introduced to the subgenre, but that was quite a few years ago.  The novel I picked up on Saturday, Mist, is about a Valkyrie trying to live a normal life in contemporary San Francisco.  I’m betting the Fates won’t allow that.

I know, I know, I didn’t need four more books for the TBR shelf, not after that long evening I spent reorganizing the embarrassingly large collection I already have.  But need doesn’t really come into the equation with books, does it?  At least I spread them out: a romance, a mystery, and a science fiction/fantasy.  I have no idea how to categorize, or even describe, Carl Hiaasen, but I recommend his books wholeheartedly.

Welcome, 2013!

The weather has been grey today, the temperature dropping from a morning high of 57 degrees.  I went out to get my newspaper at 8:30 and haven’t been out the door since.  I spent a chunk of the morning (after reading the paper and watching an old Perry Mason episode) dithering over all the Productive Tasks I thought I should accomplish on my day off.  I have lists of them, on my computer monitor, on scraps of paper, in my head.  Pieces I need to write, tasks for my RWA chapter, sections of the house to clean and declutter, and so on.  I’m not very good at relaxing.

I finally convinced myself that this was a Day Off, for heaven’s sake, and I settled on the couch with Nutmeg the cat, a Mysteries in the Museum marathon running on the background TV, and Janet Evanovich’s Notorious Nineteen.  Stephanie Plum’s insane adventures kept me entertained all afternoon, as she and Lula tracked down a few bad guys, blew up a few cars, and made me laugh out loud more than once.

I haven’t had (or given myself) too many chances to sit down and read a book for a while.  I used to read a hundred or more books a year easily, but it’s harder to do that when you work full time at a paying job and take up writing as your other job.  Doesn’t leave a lot of time, and it’s way too easy to fall asleep over even a good book late at night.

This year I read 39 books.  Yes, I keep a list (you mean not everyone does?).  Ten romances (six on paper, four on Kindle), ranging from Regency (Cheryl Bolen) to steampunk (Zoe Archer), paranormal (Darynda Jones) to inspirational (Deeanne Gist), mostly contemporary settings.  I would read more romance–I have stacks of them To Be Read–if I wasn’t writing romance myself.  I suppose I’m afraid of seepage.  And, of course, if I had more time, because I love other genres, too.

I read nine mystery novels (only one on Kindle) this year, mostly on the humorous end, by Diane Kelly, Elaine Viets, Joan Hess, Susan M. Boyer, and Spencer Quinn, with Marcia Muller on the more serious side and Margaret Maron in the middle.   I only read five science fiction novels (one on Kindle), although it’s not easy to draw a line–Zoe Archer’s romance titles are also science fiction, and Sharon Lynn Fisher’s Ghost Planet is also a romance.

I also read four uncategorized mainstream novels, two on Kindle and two on paper, and eleven non-fiction books (six on Kindle, five on paper).  Of the non-fiction, four were on writing topics and three on social media.  The others included a gorgeously illustrated book on all things steampunk and a massive (but fascinating) biography of Queen Elizabeth II.

Here on my blog, WordPress tells me, I published 81 posts in 2012, with 91 pictures.  I had 21,000 page views (I stand amazed!) by visitors from 96 countries (most of them from the US, with significant numbers from Canada, the UK and Australia).  My most-read posts all concern the TV show Hell on Wheels;  that was hardly my goal when I began blogging, but I do find the show fascinating, and I’m looking forward to the next season.

On the writing front, I’m afraid I’ve been more involved in RWA activities than in actual writing.  I’ve served as president of the West Houston chapter (that’s a chunk of the To Do list on my computer monitor right there), been a finalist in the Golden Heart contest for the second year in a row, and traveled to the RWA national conference in Anaheim.  I’ve written columns and articles for my chapters’ newsletters.  I’ve done quite a bit of editing/revising/polishing, begun a new novel, and I’m learning to use Scrivener.

So, in short, I always have two or three bookmarks in play, even if I don’t get through the books as fast as I used to.  I’m building my “Internet platform,” but only as fast as I enjoy doing so.  And I’m pretty much always planning, plotting, or writing something.  I hope to continue all of this through 2013.  Maybe I’ll even manage to clean the rest of the house and hire someone to do something about my yard.  And remodel the bathrooms.  Maybe.

Happy New Year 2013

A Reading Day!

I spent most of today reading, and all it took was a visit to my Toyota dealer’s service department (Star Toyota in League City, Texas, and I recommend them highly).  And a rather large bill (but that’s another story, and the car deserves some TLC, and that new set of tires, at 154,500 miles).

Of course I took my Kindle with me (and I wasn’t the only one in the waiting room with an e-reader).  First off, I finished the book I’d been dawdling over for weeks (because at home I mostly read on paper), Michael J. Fox’s memoir Lucky Man.  I think I downloaded this when it was a Kindle Daily Deal a while back, not because it’s a celebrity memoir but because it’s about Fox’s coming to terms with Parkinson’s Disease.  My grandfather suffered from Parkinson’s, decades ago when there was no treatment, never mind a cure.  He died in a nursing home when I was in high school; sadly when I was a little girl he was already a rather frightening old man who couldn’t communicate, at least not with children.  Fox’s story is touching and ultimately optimistic, and I certainly wish him the best.  I don’t think I ever watched Family Ties or Spin City, but I understand he’s planning to return to series TV in a family sitcom, playing a man who just happens to have Parkinson’s.  I’ll definitely tune in.

I finished that about the time the service rep came to tell me all that my car needed beyond its regular major service (something involving a valve gasket, something involving the brakes, cleaning the headlight covers, and the aforementioned new tires.  I understood the headlights and the tires perfectly), and how much longer it would all take.  So I started browsing through the collections on my Kindle, and decided that I have way too many choices there.  (And you  and I both know that won’t stop me from downloading more.  Possibly tonight.)

I settled on a romantic suspense novella by my friend Cheryl Bolen, Capitol Offense.  A contemporary tale set in Austin, this is quite a change from Cheryl’s Regency romances.  Fast paced and exciting right up to the last pages, just the thing for a spell in the waiting room.  (At the moment Capitol Offense is available free at Amazon as an introduction to Cheryl’s contemporary suspense series, Texas Heroines in Peril.)

Still had time to wait when I finished that, so I turned to my “Craft of Writing” collection and skimmed through Lori Wilde’s Got High Concept? workbook.  Lots of good ideas there, and I plan to go through it in more detail on the Kindle app on my computer.  Then I opened Joni Rodgers’ First You Write, and made it through most of the second chapter by the time my car was ready to go.

One more book, although I finished reading it (on paper) a couple of days ago:  Spencer Quinn’s latest Chet and Bernie mystery, A Fistful of Collars, is the fifth installment in the series, and just as enjoyable as the earlier books.  Chet the Jet, detective dog extraordinaire, narrates these stories, in his own frequently distracted style, and his canine point of view is often hilarious and always endearing.  Highly recommended to anyone who loves mysteries and dogs.

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