Dog On It is a fairly light, tame mystery without the sex, angst and gore that sometimes comes with the genre. There isn't much who-done-it suspense in this first novel and mystery aficionados will likely clue in on the bad guy quickly, but there are plenty of tense situations full of action. In truth, the plot of this mystery is fairly superfluous; the real draw of the book is its narrator and his quirky canine ways.
Because of that narrator, this is a fantastic mystery that stands out in a genre that can get stuck in a rut. Our main character is your typical lone-wolf private-eye, one Bernie Little. With a strong, personal code of ethics, drinking problem, financial woes and tough-guy demeanor, Bernie isn't breaking any molds even if he is a great character. But the novel offers a fresh perspective from someone who is: Chet. Chet is Bernie's dog and our narrator, a loyal mutt with mismatched ears who flunked out of K-9 school. Chet delivers a whole new flavor to an otherwise simple story. He offers the reader soliloquies about his dislike of birds, an interesting perspective on human behaviors and his easy love of anyone who offers a good pat and a chew strip. Chet is a simple, warm character. Anyone who has taken home a four legged friend will recognize Chet's behaviors from experience. The narration is not just attributed to a dog; it is unique, comic and believable - with the exception of an exaggerated dog-like-intelligence.
Besides laugh-out-loud humor and the singular narrator, Quinn keeps his novel moving and the story is over far too quickly. Chet's view of the world sticks with you even after the end. In the audiobook version, the actor who gives voice to the story offers the perfect tones for Chet and Bernie.
With two books in the bag and another on the way in the fall, Spencer Quinn's Chet and Bernie Mysteries are sure to have a bright future doggedly pursuing readers' and listeners' hearts.
If you want to read more like this series, try chick-lit with a dog's dating advice thrown in the mix in Walking in Circles Before Lying Down by Merril Maroke or zoom along with a car racing co-pilot canine in The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. David Rosenfelt combines canines and court rooms with his Andy Carpenter series. In honor of Chet, I'll leave out the cats, but this list won't go all to the dogs. For another quirky mystery from an animal's point of view, try Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann, which features a flock of detective sheep who must solve the murder of their shepherd.
Recommended by Megan Willan