Saturday, April 14, 2012

"The Dog Who Knew Too Much" by Spencer Quinn

The fourth entry in the irresistible New York Times bestselling mystery series featuring canine narrator Chet and his human companion Bernie Little - "the coolest human/pooch duo this side of Wallace and Gromit" (Kirkus Reviews)

Combining intrigue and humor with a perceptive take on the relationship between man and beast, The Dog Who Knew Too Much marks the return of the mystery world's most engaging and unlikely team of crime solvers.

Bernie Little has been invited to give the keynote speech at the Great Western Private Eye Convention, but it's his dog, Chet, that the big-shot P.I. in charge has secret plans for. Meanwhile, Chet and Bernie are hired to find a kid named Devin who has gone missing from a wilderness camp in the high country. Did Devin wander away from the group, as the hiking guide insists, or was he hounded by bullies and driven away from the campsite during the night? Devin's mother thinks that her ex-husband has snatched the boy, but Chet's always reliable nose leads to a sinister discovery, sending this missing-child case in a new and dangerous direction.

As if that weren't enough, matters get complicated at home when a stray puppy that looks suspiciously like Chet shows up in the neighborhood. Affairs of the heart collide with a job that's never been tougher, requiring our two intrepid sleuths to trust each other even when circumstances - and some small-town cops with motives of their own - conspire to keep them far apart.

The Dog Who Knew Too Much takes this engaging series to new levels of accomplishment. Both man and dog are shown in all their imperfect, endearing, loyal, and complicated glory. And as Chet recounts his and Bernie's efforts to put the bad guys behind bars, his doggy world-view gently reminds us of what we love best about canines: the unconditional love they show their humans, and the boundless enthusiasm they feel for life, every single day.

There's really not much I can say about this book other than I loved it. I am still amazed at how Quinn perfectly captures what I imagine to be the canine thought-process; I always feel as if I'm truly in Chet's brain. And yes, there is always bacon in Chet's brain.

I do wish that some of the character development had been a little more, well, developed. But it makes sense that it's not - this is Chet's world, and he doesn't pay attention to what's going on all the time. Poor Chet, easily distracted by the things that distract dogs. However, this book had a very nice plot line going for it, and much more interaction between Chet and Bernie. Yes, at one point they are separated (they always seem to be separated at some point in every book) but Chet isn't alone for long, and luckily, he's reunited with Bernie rather quickly.

My wish for the next book is that we find out much, much more about the mysterious puppy that has appeared around Chet's area, the one that looks just like him. I'd love to see Bernie take in the young dog, see the interaction between it and Chet, maybe even see Chet show a fatherly side. After all, he's been watching Bernie with his son for a few years, and Bernie seems to be a pretty darn good dad; Chet could do worse for a role model. And since dogs don't live forever, maybe the puppy will eventually take Chet's place? Only time - and the next book - will tell.

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