Books

Spencer Quinn’s Mystery Makes Me Laugh, and Sleep Well

One of my nightly rituals is reading in bed before I fall asleep. It’s my favorite time to read. The house is quiet, the work’s done for the day, the daily chores are taken care of. But too often, I find myself reading dark novels, I mean really dark novels, that stress me out and make me worry. This hasn’t been good for my psyche. If I try to sleep while feeling anxious or sad, I toss and turn. My mind races. Those dark novels are better read during the day on the weekends. Instead, I’ve learned to be careful in what I choose to put inside my imagination at night. Luckily, I discovered a Spencer Quinn mystery is exactly what I need to drift off into a happy, relaxing slumber.

A Dog Detective and his Human Pal

Spencer Quinn is the pen name for Peter Abrahams, a prolific author of both serious thrillers and humorous detective stories. He’s an easy-going guy and his Chet and Bernie series reflects that. The books aren’t exactly cozies, more like funny detective stories. They focus on a high-strung black Shepherd mix named Chet and his owner Bernie Little. Chet narrates the books from his doggie perspective, providing a lively commentary on the two’s adventures in solving crimes. The cute thing about Chet is that he’s always in a good mood. He calls himself “a real pro” and when he’s feeling great, which is almost always, he says he feels, “tip-top.” His memory isn’t that good because of course he’s a dog and he can only count to two. But what Chet lacks in human traits he makes up for in his observant smarts and keen sense of smell. He’s always on the lookout for bad guys and always ready to help someone in need.

There are 12 books in the series and the latest (non-Christmas) story is Tender is the Bite. It’s an adventure that kicks off when a young woman tells Bernie she needs his help but then disappears. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say the story includes some dirty politicians, Ukranian financial schemes, and a ferret named Griffie, who of course Chet’s suspicious of. It takes place in the Phoenix area and there’s lots of dangerous desert ambiance.

Why I Love This Book

Whenever I read a Spencer Quinn mystery, I find myself smiling the entire time. I love Chet’s goofy voice, his inability to remember that he’s barking, and his doggie talent of sniffing out everything of significance. It’s almost as if the book’s narrated by a child, which I guess it kind of is. According to canine researchers, dogs have toddler-level intelligence and Quinn captures this innocent awareness well. And if you have a dog, you’ll love all the little references to catching treats, not liking cats, and wanting to mark one’s territory.

I also have a personal affection for these books because I had a black Belgian Shepherd mix who was nearly a dead ringer for Chet. I know how energetic and whip-smart they are. But I love these books for more than just Chet’s naturally likable personality. Bernie is his own person and we witness the ups and downs and romances in his life. Quinn also knows how to create an interesting secondary cast, even with brief descriptions and snappy dialogue. It all makes for a compelling read that engages my mind but reassures me later as I turn out the light that everything, in the end, will be okay.


Karen Hugg, author

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