Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"Thereby Hangs A Tail" by Spencer Quinn

Chet and Bernie are back! The first book starring the Little Detective Agency (being Bernie Little, the human, and Chet, the dog) was entertaining and definitely different, enough that Stephen King told everyone to put it on their Summer Reading List. I was excited to see that Quinn had a second installment due out, and I waited and waited and waited until we got it here at the library (much like Chet, I'm not always the most patient of beings).

Chet and Bernie are down on their financial luck. They haven't had any big cases lately, and Bernie still has a bad habit of drinking a bit too much, at which point he listens to con artists who convince him to "invest" his money in some "can't fail, get rich quick" scheme. As Chet would say, Oh Bernie.... Along comes a new case, one that's not typical for them. They are approached for bodyguard positions for a show dog, Princess, a cute little puff ball that has teeny-tiny legs and a bit of an attitude. Seems someone doesn't want her competing, let alone winning, the local dog show. Her owner, Adelina Borghese, wants someone to protect Princess, someone who might be more familiar with the threatening type. Chet and Bernie meet Adelina, Princess, and Nancy Malone, Princess's trainer, but things don't go well, as they usually don't. The Little Detective Agency is summarily dismissed from duty.

But almost as soon as they're canned, they're rehired, by Adelina's husband, Lorenzo do Borghese, an Italian "count". Someone has kidnapped his wife and precious Princess, and he wants Chet and Bernie to find and return Princess. Oh, and his wife, too. The case becomes personal for Bernie when his on-again-off-again girlfriend, reporter Susie Sanchez, also disappears while following up some leads on the wife/dognapping. Chet and Bernie travel to the ghost town where Susie disappeared, only to be attacked and split up themselves. We follow Chet, who figures out where he is (sorta), finds some nice hippies who share their Slim Jims with him, and is sold and almost shipped off to Alaska (long story).

The case takes a couple of twists and turns, mostly because we only get Chet's point of view, and he's easily distracted. There's a rival dog owner, Sherman Ganz from Las Vegas, who could be the culprit. But the husband and the trainer are awfully chummy, and they really just seem to want to get Princess back, so they could be the perpetrators. Then there are all those phrases that Chet has trouble with, things like "red herring" and "crocodile tears". Just too confusing for our detective pup.

This second book was good, but not as good as the first, which I suppose is to be expected. I still love Chet, even if his distracted way of narrating got a bit old at times. I just kept reminding myself that most dogs are like that - easily distracted and not very linear-thinking - and this is Chet's story, really, not Bernie's. I did still love Chet's descriptions of smells, and how much he loves those smells, especially bacon. Makes me wish I had a canine's sense of smell. The mystery isn't all that complicated, but I don't think it's supposed to be the main point, either. Overall, I'm still happy with Quinn's work, even if the freshness of it is...well.... less fresh. I will happily read the third Chet and Bernie mystery when it comes out.

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