Friday, December 13, 2013

DOG ON IT


Review of DOG ON IT by SPENCER QUINN
(first in the CHET AND BERNIE mysteries)

I rarely read mystery novels. When I do, I usually pick cozy mysteries rather than gritty ones, often with a specific theme that appeals to me. I’m obsessed with books and dogs, so when I read a mystery it almost always features books or dogs.

In the case of Spencer Quinn’s series, DOG ON IT and sequels are narrated by a dog. I can be critical of dog narrators. It’s always tricky anthropomorphizing something, because you have to decide how human they should be versus how much their original self. Dog narrators irritate me when they feel purely human despite the author’s insistence that they’re a dog. I like to see some differences in thinking pattern. Even if it’s doubtless not how a dog thinks, I don’t want it to be how most humans think. My little tangent aside, this book’s dog narrator - Chet - worked for me. He’s funny and charming and provides a very interesting, not to mention amusing perspective. Chet picks up on important clues, but either doesn’t know how to communicate the information to his owner, the private investigator Bernie…or gets sidetracked by food or good smells. He also tunes out observations that might be interesting to a human but aren’t to a dog, like when Bernie asks if a women is married. We don’t find out the answer, because we’re in Chet’s perspective, he doesn't care, and he stops listening to the conversation. Also he has a tendency to fall asleep when Bernie goes to interview someone so he’s likely to share the beginning and the end of Bernie’s conversation but we know there’s a good chunk missing. 

In this first installment in the series, Bernie’s hired to track down a missing teenage girl. As I imagine must be the case for many police officers and private investigators alike, Bernie has to wade through all the lies, misinformation, and contradicting stories to figure out what’s really going on.

The whole book had me glued to the page, though the novel ends rather abruptly with a dramatic showdown followed by a mere page and a half of summation. I’ll be interested to see if later books follow this pattern of ending pretty much at the climax or if I can expect more wind down.  

I found this a fun read and a nice palate cleanser (as someone who often reads a lot of dark fantasy). I look forward to following Chet on many more adventures!

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