Staff Review: Dog On It

9781416585848Spencer Quinn

Dog On It

Atria Books

$16.00

Available now

What is more delightful than a dog? A missing-persons mystery narrated by a detective’s dog! This book is the perfect combination of well-crafted mystery and witty narration. Spencer Quinn is a master not only of pacing, but also of voice and characterization. He spins a detective tail (yes, that is a pun) that I challenge any reader to try to put down.

When fifteen-year-old Madison is kidnapped, her frantic mother calls up Bernie Little who, along with his faithful flunked-out police dog Chet, works as a private detective. The duo travel around their southwestern town, grappling with a dearth of clues, the wake of an unpleasant divorce, unhelpful clients, and Bernie’s refreshingly environmentalistic views on water and land use in the desert. In the course of their search, the two become missing persons themselves on multiple occasions, with action sequences sprinkled in at just the right moments.

The truly brilliant part of the story is that Chet occasionally witnesses key events and clues that Bernie does not . . . but he’s a dog, and most scientists would agree that dogs cannot talk, and therefore cannot communicate what he knows to Bernie. What this means for the reader is that a beautiful thread of dramatic irony has been woven throughout the story, with Chet, and therefore readers, straining to tell Bernie everything we know, and sitting helplessly as Bernie follows up red herrings instead.

All of the characters in this book are brilliantly written, even those who appear and disappear in the span of three pages. Of course, in this mystery, not everybody is as they seem, and they are seldom telling the truth.

Chet in particular is a truly lovable character. Quinn writes from the perspective of a dog better than even my own dog could (provided he could write). Anybody who reads this book will immediately begin to wonder just what exactly is going on between their own dog’s floppy ears. Chet thinks exactly like somebody would expect a perspicacious canine to think, and speaks with a voice that keeps the reader perpetually engaged.

The only thing better about this book than the characters is the plot, which weaves and worms its way on a path that is never once boring or formulaic. Quinn gives away just enough for an especially sharp reader to be able to figure out the mystery just one or two steps ahead of Bernie. It isn’t too hard, but definitely is not simplistic.

Any adult or teen who likes mysteries and dogs should definitely stop by eight cousins and pick up a copy. This is probably the best doggone book I’ve read in a long time!

~Ben

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