To Fetch A Thief: Review (Wilmington Star News)
“To Fetch a Thief”
by Ben Steelman
O frabjous day! Calloo! Callay! Spencer Quinn has finished another “Chet and Bernie” mystery, and “To Fetch a Thief” (Atria Books, $25) is ready in time for the holidays.
If you’re a mystery lover, a dog lover or just looking for a fun read, I hope you’ve discovered Chet and Bernie already, in Quinn’s previous books, “Dog On It” and “Thereby Hangs a Tail.”
If not, you’re in for a treat.
Quinn’s mysteries are narrated by Chet (no last name). Chet is a dog, a large, intelligent black-and-white mixed breed. (How can a dog narrate a book? How does Santa Claus land on the roof and get down the chimney, even when your house doesn’t have a chimney? Just go with it for a moment.)
Being a dog, Chet is a little slow about some things — he can’t count much beyond 2, he’s vague on human geography, and he gets confused when his boss, Bernie, uses a metaphor like “strike while the iron is hot.” (Chet’s had unhappy experiences with Bernie’s electric iron.)
On the other hand, he’s very sharp about dog things. His sense of smell is A-1, and while he’s weak on colors, he’s a careful observer, and he catches things that even Bernie — an ex-policeman and pretty-good gumshoe — doesn’t spot.
Chet was going to be a police dog, but he flunked his finals at the Academy. (It’s a long story — something about a cat wandering on to the field during Chet’s trials.) So, now he works for the Little Detective Agency; little is Bernie’s last name, and he’s also the only P.I. in the agency, so it fits.
Bernie is pretty ordinary as private eyes go: Ex-cop, ex-military, with a crabby ex-wife, and a son he loves but doesn’t see often enough, with a weakness for Hawaiian shirts, Jim Beam and get-rich-quick schemes that keep the Little Detective Agency perpetually short of cash.
Together, Chet and Bernie make a terrific team. In “Dog On It,” they wrestled with Russian mafiosi and real-estate scams. (Chet, as I said, is bad about specifics, but they seem to operate in Arizona, or some Southwestern state very much like it.) In “Thereby Hangs a Tail,” they handled the kidnapping of a fluffy purebred poodle from one of those hotsy-totsy dog shows, like the ones you see on cable TV.
And for “To Fetch a Thief,” our gang gets to go to the circus. A down-on-its-luck, one-ring circus hits town, and Bernie’s son Charlie wants to go. Bernie’s been lucky enough to score a couple of tickets, a side benefit of a divorce case our heroes were working. But someone’s made off with Peanut the Elephant, and Peanut’s trainer has disappeared, too.
Has Peanut been ”liberated” by animal-rights activists? Is the circus’ shady owner somehow involved? (He’s not a REAL colonel.) Popo the Clown hires Chet and Bernie to find out — and the trail will lead them over the border into Mexico and genuine danger.
Quinn, who lives on Cape Cod with his wife and dog, has a gift for hardboiled and Kibbled dialogue, and his novels are a delicious mix of comedy, of quirky character studies (in the manner of Elmore Leonard or Carl Hiaasen) and Sam Spade-style action. I can’t think of a better break from the headlines.
This entry was posted on Monday, November 22nd, 2010 at 8:09 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.