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.


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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. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

63 Responses to “Review: Thereby Hangs A Tail (Carlsbad Current-Argus)”

  1. Kirby T. Penworthy
    8:55 am on August 14th, 2011

    Good morning, y’all! Now that was a review — a little of the plot, but not too much. And she liked it, she really liked it!

    Mom’s off to church — BBL!

  2. OleyHowlers
    8:57 am on August 14th, 2011

    Good morning! We like that review…especially the part that says “he resists the temptation to endow Chet with abilities beyond what normal canines have, which keeps this mystery grounded and believable.” That explains well how the C&B series is told so well from Chet’s point of view, without coming off as “goofy” like some people think it might when they hear about it.

  3. dawson
    9:23 am on August 14th, 2011

    Good morning everyone.
    I can’t see the new friends. Where are Jazz, Bungee and Chet.
    Well….Chet is in it for more than just a fast ride in the car and a bacon treat now and then. He’s in it to grab a pant leg of a perp. He’s not the sidekick. Another great review.

  4. Melanie
    9:27 am on August 14th, 2011

    Except for that “. . stream-of-consciousness narrative featuring a dog. Isn’t that story-telling device usually reserved for books in the children’s department?” snide remark.
    This was a good review.

    I guess James Joyce’s “Ulysses” is now considered a children’s book?
    Or Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road”?
    Or William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying”?
    Shall we just forget Samuel Beckett’s trilogy, “Molloy”, Malone Dies”, and ”
    the Unnamable”?

    Perhaps, these have now been made into Comics and I didn’t know?

    grumbling here . . .

  5. B.Stover
    10:22 am on August 14th, 2011

    To continue Melanie’s grumbling: All of Virginia Woolf’s work after Night and Day is in stream-of-consciousness. If you ask my students, who do NOT consider themselves “children,” that “narrative technique” is not easy. And I don’t like Chet being called a “mutt.” I also agree with Dawson: Chet is not along just for the ride. Let’s think of some synonyms for reviewers.

  6. Masquers
    10:43 am on August 14th, 2011

    Oh, oh another reviewer bites the dust.
    Way too long for my taste. I vote for Rio to review.
    Sorry, Beth Nieman, join the others who came before you.

  7. Melanie
    10:45 am on August 14th, 2011

    hmmm, Pondering here.

    I do remember when someone reviewed one of Dan’s books and it was totally obvious he hadn’t even read the book.

    Maybe a Haiku?

    A rare reviewer
    implies the heart, not the plot
    using wit and skill

  8. B.Stover
    10:55 am on August 14th, 2011

    I love the haiku Melanie.

  9. B.Stover
    10:56 am on August 14th, 2011

    The blog bug might be back….

  10. Barb & Maggie
    10:56 am on August 14th, 2011

    We Plunderers are a tough audience, for sure. We actually liked the review better than some. Beth seems to have actually read the book. It would be hard to put into word the character of Chet. We have tried and failed to reallly describe him in depth.

    Back to the cookbook. Are we going to download it, buy it from Snowhook or what? It turned out so nice we want to give a couple as gifts, but are not sure at this point how to go about it.

  11. dawson
    10:58 am on August 14th, 2011

    Oh yeah!
    I can now start Dan’s book “White Wings”.
    My poor brain. I was subjected to a 45 minute rant by two of my bosses this week and that always frazzles me head.

  12. B.Stover
    11:04 am on August 14th, 2011

    A reviewer should not assume a position of authority but most of them seem to. Even if a review likes the book or whatever is being reviewed, s/he sounds patronizing. That’s my problem with Beth’s review. Of the reviewers that I’m familiar with, Joyce Carol Oates is the best.

  13. Chet The Dog
    11:58 am on August 14th, 2011

    Testing for notorious blog bug.

  14. Chet The Dog
    11:59 am on August 14th, 2011

    Retesting for NBB.

  15. Melanie
    12:00 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Hi Chet, well around 11:30 I couldn’t post. And before that it was that thing where it bounces you off the blog and you have to go back to the beginning.

    Still can’t post pictures though.

    Good Luck!

  16. Chet The Dog
    12:01 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Some form of BB seems to be back. But it’s Sunday, so no tech help available. – Admin

  17. Melanie
    12:01 pm on August 14th, 2011

    We will plunder through!

  18. Chet The Dog
    12:02 pm on August 14th, 2011


  19. Tupper and Gilly
    12:07 pm on August 14th, 2011

    It figures- just when we finally can get cell service there is a blog bug. Haven’t been able to post all morning. Hope this one goes through enough to say hello to everyone and wish each of you well with whatever is happening in your lives. We are having a great time out here, but we DO miss having Internet access when WE want it. Talk to you all soon!

  20. OleyHowlers
    12:12 pm on August 14th, 2011

    We were feeling sort of paranoid that the box for posting a message was gone, just when we finally return from our disconnection vacation

  21. Barb & Maggie
    12:28 pm on August 14th, 2011

    We kept getting bounced off too, but when we finally got back on, our post was there. We will check back later, have company coming for a bit.

  22. Masquers
    12:29 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Thanks, Chet! Hope this works!

  23. Chet The Dog
    12:32 pm on August 14th, 2011

    The box is back?

  24. B.Stover
    12:35 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Here’s the link to SharedBooks:

    If you click on the “Everything2Print” box you will see choices and a pdf is one of them. For the binding for my blog I’ve used paper but they also have hardcover. I’ve uploaded pictures for front and back covers. I’m not sure how to get Liz’s cover onto the cover of the cookbook but will try to figure it out. For my blog books, SharedBooks automatically numbers the pages and makes a Table of Contents.

  25. Chet The Dog
    1:55 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Umpteenth test!

  26. B.Stover
    1:58 pm on August 14th, 2011

    The comment box comes and goes. Chet: I think you should grab Georgie Malhouf by the pant leg and if you get a bit of ankle that would be fine!

  27. OleyHowlers
    1:58 pm on August 14th, 2011

    The box is back (for now). Who is Georgie Malhouf?

  28. OleyHowlers
    2:00 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Mom & Pop are leaving us all alone with storms on the way !!! EEK !!!
    They are going to see The Help.

  29. B.Stover
    2:00 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Howlers: Apparently Malhouf is another detective who appears in Dog Who. (See Facebook box at right.)

  30. OleyHowlers
    2:01 pm on August 14th, 2011

    A rival! How dare he attack our blog!

  31. Snowhook Bella
    2:24 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Mission accomplished! AJ loved his birthday surprise—it took all my restraint not to spill the beans or give him his gift before dinner. I told him as much and he reminded me that I woke him up at 2am and then again at 430—he knew I was excited about his birthday he just wasn’t sure why.

  32. Wookie of Chevy Chase
    3:10 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Rebecca. My mom is a really fast sewer (dad, not so much though, but he is willing to try too). If you could send her a sample set of booties (I think you have our snail mail address) then she will have a better idea of what is involved on the production side. She also has a special machine for cutting larger quantities of fabric called an Accu-Cutter that uses dies and it might even be possible to get a custom die in ths shape of the bootie form to speed up production. She’ll have a better idea on that when she sees the actual booties. We understand that the booties need to be made from a special fabric, but we can get that sorted out later.
    Glad that AJ’s birthday turned out so well. Also, I am keeping a special eye on AIT W. Lance — I think the kid has real potential in the secret agent biz. Wookie

  33. Riö - The Evil Pug
    3:41 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Photos!….Hey, I can’t post any more hard fought photos she took out at the farm yesterday…grunt!….Oh, I see you guys have been dealing with the Blog Bug from Hell again. Look! Chet is grumbling and using acronyms. Unbelievable….heh!heh!

    Rebecca!…Did AJ get my birthday card?….snort!

  34. Melanie
    4:19 pm on August 14th, 2011

    F just put this on her Facebook page! It’s for OTAS’s Christmas. He knows he’s getting it. He has 3 or 4 aquariums. He will be getting the Clown fish! Laughing here!

  35. Gus & BooBear
    4:26 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Mom just got a moment for the 1st time this weekend to turn on the computer and let us catch up since Friday. LOVE the cookbook stuff that has been shown so far. We will definitely want to get a copy published and bound, probably hardcover. B., can you give out an estimate on what it will cost to have the cookbook done with a hard cover from that site? Also like the idea of the spiral. That does make a cookbook easy to used. We are also thinking Christmas gifts….we have several good cooks in the family.

    Someone will have to spell out how we get our copy. Don’t even mind paying Snowhook for it as a donation, just need detail.

    Can’t help with sewing booties, but we are willing to help with donating something (don’t know what yet) to the mercantile store as a donation for Snowhook.

    Wow, it’s actually raining a little bit here!! First time in FOREVER!!

  36. Mollypop
    4:37 pm on August 14th, 2011

    OTAS is getting Nemo!

  37. Sam
    4:57 pm on August 14th, 2011

    The review talks about Princess – and here I am!

  38. Melanie
    5:27 pm on August 14th, 2011

    YOu got it MollyPop! He’s getting Nemo! He has two in one of his aquariums.

    Question: How to freeze peaches without doing a mass of sugar stuff?

  39. Barb & Maggie
    5:52 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Wookie, You sure have a special mom – she can cook AND sew up a storm. You are a lucky guy.

    Oley, We are anxious to hear how your mom and dad liked The Help.

  40. B.Stover
    6:01 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Melanie: That was great! How do they do it?

    G&BB: Getting my blog published (61 pages) cost around $16 in paper bound. I don’t know how much hardcover would cost yet. I’ll post it when I find out.

  41. Masquers
    6:39 pm on August 14th, 2011

    I see we are up and running again! Can’t wait to hear the Howler’s review of The Help!

  42. OleyHowlers
    6:59 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Mom & Pop just got home from seeing The Help. They both absolutely loved it. Pop is now excitedly reading the article from today’s paper about the author and the screenplay writer/director who have been best friends since preschool.

    Mom loved the book and she said she has never seen a movie, after loving the book, that she enjoyed as much…until this one. The movie was just as wonderful as the book, and every member of the cast exactly looked and spoke and acted like she had pictured them.

    Pop had not read the book and was not expecting to like the movie much, and guess what? He LOVED it!

  43. Masquers
    7:03 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Meow! I take that back – posting is still slower than molasses. Talk to you all at dawn’s early light.

  44. Riö - The Evil Pug
    7:10 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Bug!…I see that the Sunday Blog Bug is still here…grunt!…Does it seem like this thing always shows up on the weekends when the Fabulous Baker Boy is unavailable?….sniff!…And whats with that anyways? I thought true IT people were on call all the damned time…sneeze!

  45. Kirby T. Penworthy
    7:14 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Mom just got back from watching The Help, too! Mom and my girl decided to have a mother/daughter day. I wanted to go, but they said I’m a boy so I don’t qualify. 🙁 My girl read the book and she loved it. She was trying to get Mom to read it, too, but Mom has so many books in her to-be-read stack that she said she’d see the movie and then decide about reading the book. Well, now that she saw the movie she wants to read the book! My girl said the movie was very true to the book — a few changes here and there, but no deal-breakers.

    And then Mom and my girl drove back during a BIG thunderstorm. When they got downtown, there was standing water in the main intersection, and by the time they got to our street, the water was up over the curb! Yowser!!! No way am I going to do my business until this stuff is over!!!

  46. Barb & Maggie
    7:18 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Oley, That is exactly all the same stuff that Barb’s friend said about The Help. Almost word for word! Wow, now we are more excited about seeing it. Barb usually waits till they come out on video, because she doesn’t have any friends that go to movies with her, except very occasionally.

    Looks like Barb is going to be a partial owner (mostly silent) of a bycycle shop! Son and DIL met with owners today, and looks like they came to any agreement. Now Barb really wants to move back. May be time for another price reduction, if the teacher/cop don’t pan out.

    Most of the reason they want Barb is that she has higher credit (S & P didn’t down grade her yet), and a higher net worth, which the suppliers want in order to buy from them. She told son that the $$ she will be putting up is part of his inheritance, so if it doesn’t go, then they should be prepared for her to move in with them in 5 years!

  47. Melanie
    7:23 pm on August 14th, 2011

    That’s planning ahead Barb and MagPie! The store sounds like a good thing. More and more people are riding bikes.

    B.Stover: I don’t know how they did it. I know it’s remote control and helium but what makes it go??

    Get to go for a Kat Scan in the morning. Whoopee . . Nothing special, just keeping and eye on things! But for awhile I’ll be radioactive. I wonder if I’ll get any super powers?

    Ahhh, help with freezing peaches?

  48. Sam
    7:26 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Molly came yesterday to get away from the crowd of over a thousand bowhunters. We have had so much fun. Aunt Mollysmom took me to bed with them, then Mom scooped me up a while later to go to bed. Later my girl got me to go to bed with her and finally my boy got me. I slept in a bit this morning but then late morning it was eggs Benedict. Molly left this afternoon and I took a great big nap!

  49. OleyHowlers
    7:32 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Barb, Mom says that she and Pop were between laughing and crying during the entire movie. Wow. How can one movie run thru all those emotions?

    Owning a bike shop is a wonderful idea. Mom & Pop have been riding their bikes a lot on vacation. Poor horses are feeling left out. So are us poor Howlers. Mom wants to go back to the bike shop guy for a side view mirror now.

  50. Liz
    7:47 pm on August 14th, 2011

    The cookbook is 84 pages including cover, B did you mean 61 printing both sides or printing one side only?

    Good morning everyone.

  51. B.Stover
    7:47 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Melanie: Here’s a link on how to freeze peaches. (I’ve never done it.)

  52. B.Stover
    7:49 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Liz: My blog is printed on both sides of the page.

  53. Melanie
    7:53 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Thanks B. That first way looks the simplest.

    Atmosphere really heavy, have rain and wind. Feels more like September.

    Heading up to bed.


  54. Wookie of Chevy Chase
    9:00 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Melanie. The way my mom does it is pretty much the first way in the link that B Stover sent you. FYI, “fruit fresh” is something you can buy in most grocery stores and it is basically ascorbic acid. Mom also cans peaches, which are really yummy, but it is a fair amount of work, at least from a dog’s perspective. Wookie

  55. Riö - The Evil Pug
    9:31 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Back!… The comment box came back for me to post….wooo!… It’s been gone most of the day today, damned thing….grunt!…Because it might go away I will try and cover a lot of stuff in this one opportunity…heh!

    Renters!… My friend had to go over to my other house and re-set the sprinkler system….sniff!…She was sad to see it. Not that they haven’t taken care of the yard and house, just that she is sad that we can’t live there anymore…wuffle! …I’m pretty happy here myself. I never knew what a Zinger was till I came here…heh!…The concept of having Donuts in the early morning with my coffee before someone else gets up was foreign to me before now…snort! …Her mother and I enjoy this special time together every morning after she makes me get up and go out!out!out!….grunt!

    Project!…Someone actually finished a small project today. It’s the first “finished” one since she worked on the Fan…heh!…This must mean things are settling down finally….snuffle!

    Kirby!…I am watching the final Food Network Star with my paws crossed….snort!… But the sandwich guy is having trouble with his Pilot right now….gulp! …Don’t tell me what happens!…gulp!

  56. Mollypop
    9:43 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Tried to post a while ago but it has disappeared. I’m tired so tomorrow may be better.

  57. Riö - The Evil Pug
    10:03 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Wooo! Hoooo!…. The Great Food Truck Race is on again!….Wooooo!… This show is far too much fun to watch…heh!snort!heh!

  58. Wolfie Wigglebutt
    10:13 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Hello everyone.

    Mom can sew booties. Just tell her what to do!

    Nasty blog bug wouldn’t let us post earlier.

    We are watching the Next Food Network Star now.

  59. Riö - The Evil Pug
    10:37 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Pioneer!…Oh my paws! My friend is over the moon right now because she just saw a commercial for Pioneer Woman’s new show on Food Network….heh!… Pioneer Woman is one of them most popular blogs ever and now she has her own show coming late August….golly!

  60. Redbone Hound
    11:00 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Melanie – down south here this is how we freeze peaches:
    Pick a mess of peaches
    Eat as many as you can.
    Using a paring knife, peel the rest
    Cut in half and remove the pit
    Cut into the size you want
    Put in zip lock freezer bags
    (now here’s the tricky part)
    Seal the bag almost all the way
    Put a straw halfway into the bag and seal the zip as much as you can around it
    Now- SUCK as much air as you can out of the bag until it looks like the plastic is part of the peaches.
    Slide the straw out as you seal up the rest of the bag and VIOLA! Freezer ready packs of fresh peaches!
    I shure do hope you will forgive this southern gentleman for telling a lady to suck….but there jest ain’t no other way unless you got one of them fancy sealing machines that do the job

  61. Riö - The Evil Pug
    11:05 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Hmmm!….Now that I can post everybody is gone…grump!… Stupid blog bug is a real party pooper….gruffle! …Hey, there’s Redbone with a very interesting and easy way to freeze fresh peaches….snorkel! ….Good night brother Redbone!…sniff!

  62. Redbone Hound
    11:11 pm on August 14th, 2011

    ‘night Brother Rio. ‘night all

  63. Macy Min-Pin
    11:27 pm on August 14th, 2011

    Mom and Angie saw The Help at flapjacks and a flick this am. You will laugh, cry, repeat!

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