Friday, April 1, 2016

THE SOUND AND THE FURRY


Review of THE SOUND AND THE FURRY by SPENCER QUINN
(sixth in the CHET AND BERNIE mysteries)

Private investigator Bernie and his loyal dog Chet are back, this time working a missing person’s case - following a man who disappeared around the time of a feud over some stolen shrimp. (We’re talking boatload, not plateful, of stolen shrimp.)

Like it’s predecessors in this series, THE SOUND AND THE FURRY is a slim book that reads even quicker than you might expect, due to the fact that the majority of the text consists of dialogue. This means that several pages have very short lines scrolling down the page as the conversation bounces back and forth between the characters.

As always, I enjoyed reading the story through Chet the dog’s perspective. It’s a simple gimmick that adds a whole new spin to a classic mystery story. Chet listens in on human conversations, but often doesn’t follow much of what’s being said, giving the reader more insight into what’s going on than Chet himself. He’s also easily distracted by food, among other things. And he makes for a slightly unreliable narrator. In particular, to hear Chet tell it Bernie has no flaws. He’s perfect. However, the author Quinn does a great job defining Bernie (virtues and flaws and all) even through Chet’s awestruck eyes. Chet’s perspective also provides plenty of giggles - from familiar dog behavior like Chet bragging about how he can sit without his butt actually touching the ground all way or his occasional confusion about who was supposed to go through the door first to his almost embarrassed way of describing Bernie’s short comings. Chet really hates to admit Bernie isn’t perfect, but Chet’s not too impressed with Bernie’s sense of smell.

I didn’t find myself nearly as invested in the mystery itself as how Chet’s telling the story. There’s a secondary plotline unfolding about a potential oil spill that I did found much more intriguing than the missing person’s case, but - no real surprise - the two plot threads do eventually intersect.

Chet finds himself in some serious danger in this book. Even knowing it’s all fiction and having read interviews with the author where he openly shares that he’ll never kill Chet, I still feel very anxious reading about a dog in a scary situation!

The only aspect I take issue with in this series is how dog aggression feels validated. Bernie has trained Chet to bite and draw blood and usually not on command but when Chet deems it necessary. If Chet bites someone, it’s a sure sign they’re a bad person, usually a “perp,” but I think that’s the kind of mentality that belongs better in fiction than real life. As someone who has worked training dogs, I don’t really respect how Bernie has trained Chet. (For starters, there are lots of ways to train a dog to be intimidating without actually encouraging them to attack.) That being said, I will mention that I know very little about police dog training. Now that being said, Bernie is a private investigator not a police officer, meaning Chet isn’t a police dog, so really Bernie’s just encouraging aggression in his canine pet and partner.

THE SOUND AND THE FURRY is another fun read following sweet, simple Chet and his adventures investigating crimes with his master, partner, and best friend Bernie. I think there’s at least one more in this series out that I haven’t read yet, but I hope I get to it soon.

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