Review of A FISTFUL OF COLLARS by SPENCER QUINN
(fifth in the CHET AND BERNIE mysteries)
A FISTFUL OF COLLARS opens with an unusual case for private investigator Bernie and his dog (and our narrator) Chet. When a famous movie star arrives to shoot a big-budget movie, the mayor has hopes of turning the town into the next Hollywood. Except Thad, said movie star, has a reputation for trouble, and one misstep could wreck the whole plan. So the mayor hires Bernie to essentially bodyguard and babysit Thad. Simple, right? Of course not.
This particular premise didn’t hook me right away. The case simply didn’t garner my interest much and for over half of the book I would have said it’s my least favorite of the series. Note, though, that saying a book is my least favorite in a series I love doesn’t mean it’s bad, just not up to the standards I’ve come to expect. However, as the story progressed I revoked that assessment, anyway. Mystery novels are often a kind of puzzle and this puzzle didn’t make much sense to me...until suddenly it did. There’s a lot more to this case than Bernie or the reader could possibly expect, but be patient with the author. All will be revealed in due time.
As I may have mentioned before in reviewing this series, the unique narration style with a dog telling the story is very taste specific. Some readers will find the style adorable and others irritating. Chet’s easily distracted, goes off on tangents, rambles, and struggles focusing. I personally love the unique spin of a dog describing the mystery, especially in dramatic irony instances where Chet observes but doesn’t understand something that the reader will.
I loved Chet from the very start of the first book, but I’m growing increasingly fond of Bernie, too. I never disliked him, but it takes a lot for me to bond with a fictional character to the extent that they feel closer to an actual friend than ink on the page.
These books can easily be read out of order, but it’s fun following the subtle developments in overarching series plot threads, mainly Bernie’s various relationships. Suzie, Leda, and Charlie all play a role in this installment with some small and not so small shifts in their relationships with Bernie.
I don’t have much critical to say of this series, besides the warning that the dog viewpoint and silly tone isn’t for everyone. However, I increasingly dislike the violence scenes. They make me squeamish and uncomfortable, especially when either Chet or Bernie act violent. It’s not unrealistic that a man in Bernie’s line of work will have violent encounters. What bothers me is the underlying message that violence is okay if the person deserved it (and this is a general complaint I have with many books, not only these ones).
Reviewing series can be tricky, because sometimes I don’t have much new to say about each additional book. A FISTFUL OF COLLARS is more of the same, and in this case “the same” is good.