Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Book Review: Dog On It by Spencer Quinn

The Publisher's Summary:
Meet Chet, the wise and lovable canine narrator of Dog on It, who works alongside Bernie, a down-on-his-luck private investigator. Chet might have flunked out of police school ("I'd been the best leaper in K-9 class, which had led to all the trouble in a way I couldn't remember exactly, although blood was involved"), but he's a detective through and through.
In this, their first adventure, Chet and Bernie investigate the disappearance of Madison, a teenage girl who may or may not have been kidnapped, but who has definitely gotten mixed up with some very unsavory characters. A well-behaved, gifted student, she didn't arrive home after school and her divorced mother is frantic. Bernie is quick to take the case -- something about a cash flow problem that Chet's not all that clear about -- and he's relieved, if vaguely suspicious, when Madison turns up unharmed with a story that doesn't add up. But when she disappears for a second time in a week, Bernie and Chet aren't taking any chances; they launch a full-blown investigation. Without a ransom demand, they're not convinced it's a kidnapping, but they are sure of one thing: something smells funny.
Their search for clues takes them into the desert to biker bars and other exotic locals, with Chet's highly trained nose leading the way. Both Chet and Bernie bring their own special skills to the hunt, one that puts each of them in peril. But even as the bad guys try to turn the tables, this duo is nothing if not resourceful, and the result is an uncommonly satisfying adventure.
With his doggy ways and his endearingly hardboiled voice, Chet is full of heart and occasionally prone to mischief. He is intensely loyal to Bernie, who, though distracted by issues that Chet has difficulty understanding -- like divorce, child custody, and other peculiar human concerns -- is enormously likable himself, in his flawed, all-too-human way.

I found Dog On It via the New York Times Bestseller list. Not THIS particular novel, but one of the follow-up novels in the "Chet and Bernie Mystery" series. Not wanting to start yet another series in the middle (a'la Baldacci's Camel Club) I went back to the first Chet and Bernie Mystery "Dog On It".

Reviews on GoodReads** were generally positive and my failure to plan meant that I had about 4 hours to get a couple of novels downloaded before I headed off to Syracuse. When I departed, I decided to start with Dog On It.

**My GoodReads profile is HERE - note that I don't have any content, but you can see what I'm currently reading and what I've read recently. I haven't gone back through history and entered a lot of novels I've read over time, but I have found that GoodReads offers me better "you might like" suggestions than Amazon, Audible or Kirkus.

One of the things I like about spending so much time on the road is that I really get to get into novels. The first chunk of Dog On It was consumed in a constant 3.5 hour listen - some books don't work well in this format, particularly ones that require intensely active listening or mediocre novels that struggle to start (and often struggle to end). That Dog On It kept my attention for the six hour ride to Syracuse (and then back and forth to grounds) is a testament to the quality of the story.

Now for the review...Is Dog On It un-put-down-able? No. Is there suspense when you fear for the survival of Chet (or Bernie)? No. Is the novel unique? Not really, in my opinion Garth Stein really knocked the whole narration by dog genre out of the park. By the way, if you haven't read/listened to The Art of Racing in the Rain, you absolutely must. MUST!

So what is Dog On It? It's the perfect two hour Saturday Afternoon kind of novel - it'd make a great made for TV movie - staring Teller as Chet, Tony Shalub as Bernie and Geena Davis as Suzy. Wouldn't that be a cast made for TV? Of course as narrator, Chet figures out the mystery WAY before Bernie and then the readers wait while the bipeds get their act together and figure out what the dog knew 200 pages ago. In general this type of story can be frustrating, but I didn't have that frustration with Dog On It, perhaps because the lines were not straight from A to B. Along the way to the ending there were various plot twists that maintained the entertainment factor.

I'll probably come back to another Chet and Bernie Mystery - maybe not this year, but there are four more 'episodes' to go back to if the mood strikes. I'll give Dog On It a solid 3 stars, good entertainment,  not so much suspense. Stephen King called it "enchanting", I'm not sure I agree there - but I don't regret spending the credit - nor the nearly 10 hours of listening.

Dog On it was written by Spencer Quinn and narrated by Jim Frangione. Dog On It was published by Recorded books with a release date of 2/10/2009 and a runtime of 9 hours 4 minutes.

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