The Sound and the Furry: A Chet and Bernie Mystery
Our valiant canine detective, Chet the Jet, is back for another adventure with “the smartest guy in the room,” his ex-cop human partner, Bernie.
Their usual turf is in an unnamed city in Arizona that could be Tucson or Phoenix or thereabouts. Chet, the narrator of these delightful detective stories, is far more interested in how his environment smells than what it is called, so he can be rather vague on details that include geography and numbers higher than two. To Chet, a road is a road is a road, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein. It is merely an excuse to riding shotgun in Bernie’s aging Porsche convertible, no matter where it is headed. The poetic rose, on the other hand, can divulge many secrets, depending on what dog recently watered its bush, or what the person who picked it had for lunch. Chet’s nose, he avers, is one of many talents that he brings to the table to catching the perps. That and his 100-plus pounds. And his teeth. Chet is on the job.
"The wonderfulness of the Chet and Bernie mysteries does not depend so much on procedural sleuthing or forensics when Chet and Bernie take on the case. It is the viewing of Chet's world through his original point of view and priorities."
Chet’s horizons are about to be broadened when Bernie is hired to trace a missing person named Ralph Boutette. Ralph, the most normal of four brothers in a family of black sheep, is an inventor who lives on a houseboat in New Orleans bayou country. Chet’s personal inventory of smells, an awe-inspiring compendium on which he relies to keep up his end of the partnership, is about to be exponentially expanded when he hits the swamplands of the Mississippi delta.
The wonderfulness of the Chet and Bernie mysteries does not depend so much on procedural sleuthing or forensics when Chet and Bernie take on the case. It is the viewing of Chet's world through his original point of view and priorities. That can frequently be a ham and cheese sandwich, carelessly held by a human that Bernie is interrogating. Chet’s focus on the probability of it ending up between his paws is calculated with laser beam intensity. Or a stray Cheeto under a chair can lead to a clue. If you are a dog lover, you will instantly recognize your own pet in Chet’s wry commentary on the world as he sees it.
THE SOUND AND THE FURRY is number six in a series that began with DOG ON IT. You may wonder how Spencer Quinn appeared so suddenly out of nowhere with such skillfully written mysteries. That mystery is solved when it was disclosed that Spencer Quinn is a pseudonym for award-winning author Peter Abrahams (who Joyce Carol Oates called “a master of suspense”).
Chet tends to describe odors in a manner akin to a wine connoisseur. He finally discovers, face to face, the source of that new “snakey, froggy, lizardy with a touch of peppery and poopy” smell when Bernie is knocked unconscious and Chet gets into deep water. Quinn’s masterly skills at suspense writing provide a heart-racing climax.
For the human crime involved, oil rigs and greed are the raison d'être. Chet is oblivious to what oil rigs have to do with sorting out bad guys from good guys, but he’s spot on when it comes to knowing which is which. This is yet another talent he brings to the table.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on October 25, 2013