It should therefore not surprise you that I have been on the waiting list for Dog Gone It at my local library since I first heard about it ealier this year. Unfortunately, my turn arrived when I was in Asheville this summer, so the wait was nearly twice as long as it should have been. No worries, I managed to find my very own copy of the book this weekend at the Half Price Books 20% off sale (the subject of another post) and I promptly came home and read the entire book in one evening.
The novel, a first in the Chet and Bernie mystery series by Spencer Quinn, did not disappoint. In fact, it was exactly what I had thought it would be: a rather humorous, easy read with just enough plot twists and suspense to keep me fully engaged. The story is told from Chet's point of view, a K-9 "near" graduate who has a keen sense of smell and a rather good understanding of the human language. The "voice" of Chet is very reminiscent of the old Dragnet television series (for those of you who are old enough to remember Sargeant Joe Friday and his partners in law enforcement): very straight forward; short, crisp sentences that tend to focus on facts and rarely on hypotheses. What really captures the "reality" of this canine POV is the fact that he is easily distracted from the situation at hand. One thought quickly leads to another and in a very short amount of time he has free-associated himself into another time and place that it is not at all germaine to the case. For those of you who have ever taken a dog for a walk, you can easily relate to this attention deficit condition. If you have seen the summer Pixar movie, UP, you can also relate to the fickleness of a dog's mind when he is reminded of squirrels.
While I am sure that this story would be very pleasing to canine lovers, I do think there is enough of a mystery element to the story that those who enjoy this genre minus the animals would also find the book interesting. The final resolution to this who-done-it does not occur until the very last pages, and while the reader has suspicions of the guilty party early in the novel, it is cleverly cleared up in the end. There are a few places where circumstances are rather contrived in order to move the plot forward, but if total realism is what you are looking for, then a book told from a dog's point of view is not going to satisfy.
We are introduced to several characters, other than Bernie and Chet, who I am sure will be developed more as the series continues. Bernie is a divorced private eye whose ex-wife causes financial tension in his life. They share custody of his son, Charlie, and the relationship between father, son, and dog is poignant and entertaining. A young female reporter has written an article about Bernie for the local paper, and the two of them seem to have a mutual interest in one another. I am sure this will be a relationship that will continue, and I am anxious to see how she manages to help Bernie shed some of his old, bachelor ways.
In doing a bit of research on the internet I discovered that the 2nd book in this series, Thereby Hangs a Tail, is scheduled for release in January, 2010. I, for one, will be very excited to read of Chet and Bernie's next mystery adventure.