Private investigator Bernie Little and his big-guy dog partner, Chet, find themselves strapped for money. This is not an infrequent occurrence, since Bernie has notoriously bad judgment about get-rich quick schemes whenever cash comes his way --- schemes that even Chet recognizes as losing propositions.
"THE DOG WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, the fourth Chet and Bernie book, is a giant stride toward a bona fide mystery."
A pretty lady (another weakness of Bernie’s) offers him a weekend job as her bodyguard, but he is tempted to turn it down flat. This is not what Bernie does. He’s an experienced, licensed PI who hunts down criminals or, if he’s really desperate, philandering husbands, but this is a new low. When she explains that there’s a kid and a bad-guy ex-husband involved, he reluctantly takes the job. Both Bernie and Chet, for personal reasons, have a special soft spot for kids in a divorce situation. The job involves a drive with the woman out of state to a wilderness camp for overweight children. They arrive to find that the boy has gone missing after an overnight backpack trip in the forest. Now that it becomes a missing person situation, there is much more at stake, and Chet and Bernie are on the case. As far as Chet is concerned, that’s as good as it gets.
THE DOG WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, the fourth Chet and Bernie book, is a giant stride toward a bona fide mystery. The first three books were refreshingly original with equal moments of adventure and humor, but pretty lame as far as plot was concerned. Not so in book four. Bernie is arrested on suspicion of murder, and Chet is kidnapped and must find a way to escape his captors. A plot involving two murders, the FBI, the DEA, and a county full of crooked officials keeps the story moving along at a go-to trot. That’s what Chet calls the pace he can keep up all day and all night.
Chet is not supernatural. That is, he doesn’t actually talk, but Spencer Quinn, his creator, magically channels Chet onto the printed page so that we see the action from Chet’s point of view. As the story unfolds, Chet offers savvy observations on the case at hand and life in general. He understands an amazing number of human words, but his literal frame of reference often distracts his attention. He is particularly befuddled by metaphors and similes. Thus we are taken on some purely canine reminiscences of his version of a wild goose chase, or wondering what’s so special about a 10-foot pole, as his mind wanders during humdrum human conversation. Food scraps are another diversion, and the sight of a stray French fry or an unattended plate of cookies clouds his attention.
Once they are properly dispatched, Chet whips back to his professional best. He's on the case. He worships Bernie, who he feels can do no wrong, even when he miserably mangles a speech to a law enforcement convention. In Chet’s eyes, Bernie is always the smartest human in any room, not to mention the strongest and bravest. Such is the relationship between human and dog to which any dog lover can relate.
The human and canine foibles and imperfections are what endear these two characters to readers. A good mystery is the frosting on the cake. And Chet would agree, with a lip-licking memory of that wedding cake that he… “Well,” as he remarks when he catches himself digressing, “that’s a story for another time.”
Reviewed by Roz Shea on December 1, 2011