The Sound and the Furry by Spencer Quinn

The Sound and the Furry (A Chet and Bernie Mystery #6)The Sound and the Furry

by Spencer Quinn
Series: Chet and Bernie, #6

Hardcover, 320 pg.
Atria Books, 2013
Read: July 23, 2014

I cannot think of another narrator in contemporary fiction as charming, as relateable, as endearing Chet — unreliable as all get out, but utterly trustworthy. I’m sure there are readers out there who are not susceptible to Chet’s canine charms, but I’m not one of them. I chuckle, I laugh, I am drawn in instantly — and as long as the stories are passable, that combination is a winner.

Thankfully, usually the stories are more than passable, which is just frosting on the cake. This time out, the Little Detective Agency finds itself on the road to New Orleans, of all places — a far cry from their normal stomping grounds. It’s good to see Quinn shake things up a little, he can’t be as dependent on things like Bernie chasing down a former C.I. or a familiar source of information. They also don’t know the lay of the land at all, and Bernie has to acclimate himself quickly.

Sure, some of Quinn’s tropes are here — Bernie not making sound financial choices, Chet causing a little trouble (tho mostly charming people), Chet getting separated for a time from Bernie (although this time it felt more organic than in any other of these books — I was a little bit into the separation before it dawned on me that, “yup, it’s about time for this”). But that doesn’t detract from the change in setting — or make it seem like less of a change. Instead, the presence of Quinn’s usual moves just underlines their universality.

It’s not uncommon for the sidekick of a detective to notice something missed by their associate — and it’s not uncommon for the sidekick to be unable to get the detective to see what they want them to/understand what they’re excited about, etc. And in almost any other detective novel where the detective is so clueless about so much of what the sidekick notices would be full of griping and complaining from the sidekick (justified griping, but griping, nonetheless). Not these books , however – except for his questionable financial decisions, Chet can’t even think of Bernie negatively, and he forgets anything that approaches negative almost instantly. This leaves the reader to chew on all the clues that Bernie’s missing while Chet’s focused on other things. I Love that. Typically, it’s the detective that has access to clues before the reader/independent of the reader (and that’s true here to an extent) but these books turn the tables on that, giving us readers the advantage.

Don’t know of its because Chet’s a dog, or if Quinn’s just that good at what he does (or some other thing), but when Chet’s in danger I get tenser than I do reading just about anything else — even if the danger’s not that great ultimately. But when Chet tussles with a certain critter in this book, I know my adrenaline levels jumped up and I read a lot faster just so I could get to the resolution of the fight.

My main (only?) problem with the book is its treatment of Suzie Sanchez. She seemed more like a refugee from Three’s Company than the reporter we’ve come to know and like. Quinn’s bounced between from treating her as a strong, capable character and this disappointment — she deserves better (as do Bernie & Chet, and the readers). If I’m drawing the right inferences from the cover image on the seventh Chet & Bernie book, it looks like he’ll give it a shot. If I’m wrong, Quinn should just write the character out of the series and start over with a new love interest.

We’ll never see it — I don’t imagine — but Chet kept hinting at this deeper, darker story, this side of Bernie we haven’t really seen (I think we’ve gotten glimpses before, but nothing like in this book). The kind of thing that belongs in a far more hard-boiled novel than this one. And unless we get someone else’s point of view, we’ll never see this side of Bernie in full because Chet can’t really admit it to be true. But we got a few hints this time — I sure wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of Bernie.

Until then, we get these light, joy-filled mysteries equal parts puzzle and entertainment. Who’d ask for more?

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4 Stars

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Dusted Off: A Fistful of Collars by Spencer Quinn

A Fistful of Collars (A Chet and Bernie Mystery #5)A Fistful of Collars

by Spencer Quinn
Series: Chet and Bernie, #5

Hardcover, 320 pg.
Atria Books, 2012

Little makes me as happy as a good Chet & Bernie story — and this one fits the bill. Quinn avoids some of the pitfalls of his other books — certain scenes/plot points that are becoming more than threadbare are absent here.

The main storyline was pretty predictable, but it was well — and entertainingly — executed. The subplots are the key to this one, and most of those were handled deftly.

Good, solid entry in this series with one of the best narrative voices around — give this one a read!

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4 Stars

Dusted Off: To Fetch a Thief by Spencer Quinn

To Fetch a Thief (A Chet and Bernie Mystery, #3)To Fetch a Thief

by Spencer Quinn
Series: Chet and Bernie, #3

Hardcover, 307 pg.
Atria Books, 2010

What can I say about this? Read it. Love this series. At this point, I think the only “voice” I enjoy reading more in this world than Chet is Archie Goodwin, and Chet’s still with us, so he could pass Archie.

On my first read, I didn’t love it as much as the first — but slightly more than the second — in this series. I think Quinn did a bit more with Bernie’s character than he has in the past — Bernie could probably carry his own story w/o Chet now (Heaven Forbid). Less Suzie, more Charlie and the ex. Good subplot involving the latter two.

Good mystery, nice action, etc. like always. I just love these books, wish I could articulate it better and get more folks to read ’em.

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4 Stars