Spence says GalleyCat is a cool book site; maybe, but what’s the cat part all about?
Doggone Funny: GalleyCat Reviews Thereby Hangs a Tail by Spencer Quinn
Reviewed by P.E. Logan
Not since Timmy and Lassie has there been such a winning human/canine duo as Bernie Little and Chet, the protagonist and narrator, respectively, of Spencer Quinn’s ultra-charming mystery, Thereby Hangs A Tail. Like last year’s debut, Dog On It, this lighthearted detective romp is set in the American Southwest and centers on the missing persons caseload of the Little Detective Agency.
The novel is told from the viewpoint of Chet, a K-9 drop out (“long story,” as Chet says) who refers to himself as Bernie’s “partner” in the Agency. From the cover art, Chet appears to be a shepherd-mix and his self-description is that he is a bounding “100-pounder.” From the random thoughts and musings that pop into his over-active dog brain, he is a combination of Mr. Peabody, the clever cartoon dog, and Ed Norton the spacey neighbor from The Honeymooners. In other words: utterly irresistible.
Quinn, a.k.a. veteran thriller writer Peter Abrahams, successfully captures what we love best about dogs: their single-minded devotion to the task at hand; the ability to rise from a dead sleep and leap into action to snag a Frisbee or a pant leg on our behalf; and their undying loyalty and faith. “Who’s better than Bernie?” Chet frequently comments about his ex-cop master who is frequently down on his luck and financially very unlucky. In Chet’s mind, no one.
Chet is not a talking dog, just one that thinks out loud. His amusing interior dialogue aptly reflects his fleeting canine attention span and Swiss cheese memory. “Did I mention that?” Chet asks the reader in his frequent asides on a multitude of tangents including his love of trumpets, the Discovery Channel, Bernie’s young son Charlie (“Hi Chet the Jet”) who’s not around much since the divorce and food. Yes, Chet has brought up these factoids before but this is Quinn’s cleverness, to get inside a dog’s mind in a way that we don’t doubt what Chet is thinking or that he is telling us this story.
Chet is hyperbolic in his thoughts and confirms what we believe about dogs; that they are genuinely happy to be with us and live in the moment. “What’s better than this?” Chet exclaims each time he snags a perp, scares off a stray javelina desert pig, rides shotgun in Bernie’s beaten up Porsche with the wind in his ears or scarfs down endless chew strips, bacon and crullers.
The case before Chet and Bernie this time is the abduction of a wealthy contessa and her prize-winning show dog, Princess, shortly before the Great Western Dog Show. Also missing is Bernie’s main squeeze prospect, local newspaper reporter Suzie Sanchez. The mystery is easily solvable by the reader, but you meet a good cast of characters including whacked-out desert hippies, jealous dog show competitors and dubious law enforcements agents.
The Bernie and Suzie relationship woes are nicely captured by Chet who has many philosophical moments to share about humans and the way they act. “What’s up with that,” Chet thinks when it comes to why humans even have noses if they can barely smell through them.
The books in this series are the most fun you’ll have between the covers all season. But don’t take my word for it. My dog Mr. Scott gave this novel a good sniffing. Having chewed the Gourmet Cookbook and Anna Karenina he is a discerning consumer of quality books. One look at him and I could tell his review, other than bacon, what’s better than this?
P.E. Logan is communications professional and a writer in New York. She has worked at various adult trade publishing houses including Random House, Putnam, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster for almost three decades. She now works at The New York Times. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post and other periodicals.
Today at noon (eastern), Spencer Quinn on BlogTalkRadio -http://www.blogtalkradio.com/mrmedia/2010/02/10/interview-spencer-quinn-chet-the-dog-novelist-dog-on-it-thereby-hangs-a-tail
This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 10th, 2010 at 8:00 am and is filed under Chet The Dog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.