Dog On It – A Book Review

Not only am I an author, I am also an avid reader.  It is my hope to offer periodic book reviews to give you a glimpse at my bookshelf, and hopefully encourage you to pick up a good book.  Most of what I read is from a Christian worldview, although I do read some secular books from time to time.

Dog On It – A Chet and Bernie Mystery

By Spencer Quinn

Published 2009 by Atria Paperback

I love a good mystery.  I was introduced to Trixie Belden when I was 9 or 10 years old and read the entire series.  It wasn’t too long after that when I discovered Agatha Christie and I still love her books.  I’ve read some of them multiple times and still can’t figure out “who dunnit”.  My love of mysteries is probably why I write them, although calling my novels mysteries is probably a bit of a stretch.  (But I have been told by readers that they are good! 🙂 )

I stumbled upon Dog On It while virtually shopping on my Kindle one evening.  A lot of times I just scroll through books available in the Kindle store without ever buying anything.  This book caught my interest but I didn’t purchase it at the time.  A few weeks later I thought about it again and it took me awhile to find it, as I didn’t remember the exact title or author.  It was a bit pricey as an e-book so I did a side-by-side price comparison of used books on Amazon and Alibris and found Amazon to be a bit cheaper.  (I purchased the first 3 books at the same time.)  So, I read this book in paperback format.

Not only do I love a good mystery, I also love dogs and I love books that make me laugh.  Dog On It combines all three elements quite nicely.  This is NOT a Christian novel, it is secular and does have some bad language, including the F-word and using the Lord’s name in vain.  But, the swearing was not prolific and was done mostly in the context of dialogue and fit the situations – such as when Bernie is confronting a bar full of bikers.  Had there been a lot of it, I probably would have put the book aside and not finished it.

Dog On It (and the other books in the series) are told from the perspective of Chet, who is the narrator of the story.  I believe he is a German shepherd but it never quite says for sure.  All the book eludes to is that he was once a K-9 trainee who didn’t quite manage to graduate, due to an unfortunate incident involving a cat.  I found myself giggling from the very first page, when Bernie stumbles in late.

“I raised my tail and let it thump down on the rug, just so, sending a message.”

I was hooked!  Bernie is a down-on-his-luck private eye, Chet his loyal, crime-solving partner.  Soon the two take on the case of a missing teenager, Madison.  The scenes between Chet and Madison’s pet parrot, Cap’n Crunch made me laugh out loud.  As Bernie and Chet work to solve the kidnapping, there is plenty of suspense.  Chet gets dognapped and after his hair-raising escape has a close call with a kill shelter.  There’s a pretty good chase scene with Bernie driving his old Porsche up a steep, winding mountain road with Chet riding shotgun.  Mr. Quinn does an excellent job of combining the humor and suspense with touching scenes between Chet, Bernie and Bernie’s son, Charlie.  (Bernie is divorced and his ex-wife has custody.)

It’s very interesting to read a book written from the point of view of a dog who cannot communicate with the other characters via words.  Bernie keeps up a running commentary which provides most of the dialogue.  As a reader it was almost frustrating at times, wanting Bernie to be able to interpret Chet’s behavior and barking, wishing Chet could just say what he knew!

The one negative, in my opinion, was the ending.  Yes, the mystery is solved but I felt it ended quite abruptly.  There’s no explanation for how the good guys come to the rescue, they are suddenly just there.  There is only a half-page wrap-up of the case after that, which I found to be less than satisfying.  Also, near the end there is a scene where Chet is at the dog groomers and she finds something when she is bathing him.  It seems to upset her, but then it is never mentioned again.  Maybe this will be something that is important in the next book.  I guess I will find out!

Overall, I really enjoyed Dog On It.  It was light, happy reading that gave me a few laughs.  Chet is a loveable character and his loyalty to Bernie, and how he thinks Bernie is the smartest guy alive, is heartwarming.  If you enjoy mystery and humor and don’t mind a bit of bad language, I would recommend this book.  I’m already anxious to start book 2 – Thereby Hangs a Tail.

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