Review: Thereby Hangs A Tail (Carlsbad Current-Argus)
It’s always nice to be pleasantly surprised, as I was when reading a new book by Spencer Quinn. I initially had low expectations for Quinn’s mystery novel, “Thereby Hangs a Tail,” because I assumed it would be pretty tough for him to pull off a believable stream-of-consciousness narrative featuring a dog. Isn’t that story-telling device usually reserved for books in the children’s department?
Quinn does a great job, though; he takes readers on a crime investigation through the eyes of Chet, 100 pounds of delightful mutt. Chet is bound by his canine limitations, but his instincts lead him in the right direction most of the time.
Chet’s best friend and owner is Bernie Little, who, by Chet’s reckoning, is always the “smartest human in the room.” Together they criss-cross the California desert in Bernie’s Porsche, looking for Contessa Adelina di Borghese and her prize-winning dog, Kingsbury’s First Lady Belle (known as Princess for short), who both disappear just before a big dog show.
The first suspect is Sherman Ganz, the man who owns a dog which represents the only real competition for Princess. Even though some suspicious evidence turns up at Ganz’s place, Bernie and Chet keep following clues.
Canine narrator Chet experiences some things relevant to the case, which means the reader knows them, too, adding to the narrative tension. Bernie has to work out the solution to the mystery on his own, of course; as far as Chet is concerned, he’s mainly along for thethrilling top-down rides in Bernie’s vintage sports car, the occasional bacon-flavored dog treat and the exciting possibility of getting into a scrap with some bad guys.
It must have been difficult for author Quinn to figure out ways for Chet to reveal extra information to Bernie, but he resists the temptation to endow Chet with abilities beyond what normal canines have, which keeps this mystery grounded and believable. Quinn highlights those qualities of dogs which typify their relations with humans: loyalty, playfulness and the instinct to protect. Because Bernie is a keen observer, he catches on fast when Chet reacts to something unusual.
Bernie’s character is revealed through Chet’s eyes. Bernie is ex-military, physically strong and smart when it comes to solving crimes, but not too savvy with the finances. Divorced, he has a son named Charlie who lights up Bernie’s life whenever he’s around. Bernie’s girlfriend, news reporter Suzie Sanchez, is a favorite of Chet’s, and when she goes missing, the case becomes very personal for both Bernie and Chet.
If you don’t mind a little salty language from the bad guys, you’ll like Quinn’s fast-paced mystery; if you’re also a dog-lover, this book will double your enjoyment. – Beth Nieman
Welcome Jazz, Bungee, and (are we reading this one right?) Chet.
This entry was posted on Sunday, August 14th, 2011 at 8:41 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.