For our inaugural Featured Author segment, we are proud to present Spencer Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of the Chet and Bernie Mysteries series.  Over the next few weeks, we will review each book in the series and feature Q&A with Quinn.  In the coming months we’ll be celebrating novelists from all genres with reviews of our Featured Author’s previous releases and interviews and reviews that coincide with the author’s newest book launch.

First up in the Chet and Bernie Mysteries is Dog On It.


Dog On It
Spencer Quinn
Atria Books
ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-8583-1


Although I’ve recently become more of a cat person, I can acknowledge that members of the species have their inherent limitations. Mine, for example, spends much of his day sleeping; and, though he enjoys exploring the outdoors, Boots generally does it all at his own pace. Basically, I wouldn’t ask him to solve any crimes for me. He probably wouldn’t appreciate the scheduling conflicts that kind of added effort would create.

Not the case for Chet, Spencer Quinn’s perfectly conceived canine hero (and narrator). From the moment he comes on the scene alongside his “partner,” private detective Bernie Little, Chet wields the verbal tone a hardened crime fighter — but what makes him a really wonderful character is the fact that Quinn never forgets to let him be the dog he is. We meet him thus:

I could smell him — or rather the booze on his breath — before he even opened the door, but my sense of smell is good, probably better than yours. The key scratched against the lock, finally found the slot. The door opened and in, with a little stumble, came Bernie Little, founder and part owner (his ex-wife, Leda, walked off with the rest) of the Little Detective Agency. I’d seen him look worse, but not often.

He mustered a weak smile. ‘Hey, Chet.’

I raised my tail and let it thump down on the rug, just so, sending a message.

From there on, anything goes, as Chet and Bernie prove to be the perfect duo — not just because of their complementary sleuthing skills (as Chet says, Bernie is the “idea man”) — but because their bond of cross-species friendship is so pure.

Their first journey in print begins amidst utter confusion, after a frantic woman pulls up to their home to claim that her teenage daughter has gone missing. The daughter, Madison, ends up walking home later that night, seemingly having never been in danger — but after she disappears again, Bernie, with Chet at his side, knows that it’s time to start digging into the case.

After a parking lot run-in with an unknown troublemaker in a blue car leaves Chet injured, we get a first taste of the shady gang behind the crime. Bernie gains some early clues after tracking down a drug-dealing thug who witnessed Madison’s kidnapping (and putting a little old-fashioned beat down on him), but when Chet finally spots and attacks the assailant in the blue car, he gets himself captured and hauled off to the gang’s desert hideout. Although he can’t yet free Madison, Chet is able to find his own way out of danger after escaping the compound, fighting off a wild mountain lion, and hitching a ride with some wayward bikers. And, remarkably, he never stops being cute along the way — whether it’s gobbling up a burnt hamburger, or letting his tongue hang out with unrestrained joy as he rides shotgun in Bernie’s Porsche or hangs off the back of a motorcycle.

As the Little Detective Agency sifts deeper, they begin to realize that Madison’s father Damon, though divorced from her mother and without any custody of her, seems just sleazy enough to be involved in her disappearance. And as Chet notes, it doesn’t help that Damon pals around with a snooty, lazy cat named Prince.

Of course, both man and dog are up to every challenge they face, and, as in any great mystery, there are many. Bernie fights off the demons of his past marriage, as he sparingly sees his own son while working to save Madison, and he ends up enlisting the help of Suzie Sanchez, a local reporter (and love interest) who gives him a bit of the romantic runaround before discovering some vital clues. Chet finds his way out of more than a few dangerous tangles, does plenty of barking, and longs for another treat. After shootouts, hostage encounters and a classic car chase, both partners face brushes with death — and both escape by the tips of their fingers, or their paws. But after all is said and done, it ends just like Chet tells us always does: with his jaws clamped around the pant leg of the perp.

And, of course, even in the midst of pensive focus or the most dangerous mortal combat, Chet is always a big, lovable hound. He is never without quirks, and his doggy charm is the most important part of what makes Quinn’s debut such a huge success. Dog on It is full of typically adrenaline-packed crime action — but that wouldn’t have been enough to make for a great read. The fact that, at every turn, Chet and Bernie are on equal footing, fighting for each other as hard-boiled buddies, is what will keep the book in your hands. That’s the true skill of Quinn’s authorial ear: it lies within that paired narrative, and it quickly becomes clear that you’re never going to become sick of these two. And no matter how great of a crime fighter Chet is, you’ll always find more fun in his faults — like when he’s just about to find a deep philosophical link between Damon’s failed marriage and Bernie’s.

I knew men could cry — had seen Bernie tear up that time Leda came and packed up Charlie’s stuff; did I mention that already? At that moment I came close to making — What would you call it? A connection maybe, a connection between Bernie’s situation and —

But it didn’t happen. I spotted a Cheeto under the bed. Munch munch and it was gone.

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28 thoughts on “DOG ON IT by Spencer Quinn

  1. Loved this book! And the review really captures that terrific Chet persona that makes it so unique and fun…definitely not just another dog story!

  2. Now that is a great review! Altho it gives much of the story away to anyone who has not yet read it. But it captures the charm of the Chet and Bernie series…the equal footing…and how Spencer Quinn "never forgets to let him be the dog he is".

  3. "Munch munch and it was gone" I love the doggie parts the best.
    New Chet and Bernie coming out just around the corner.
    B. is not going to like this guy using "read" as a noun.

    1. Gasp! He did use "Read" as a noun. Oh, I hope Stover comes over here and gives us her honest opinion about that. Also, did you notice, Mr. Spokony did not mention Chet's blog.

      1. There is a link to Chet's blog in the editor's introduction to this review, if anyone is interested in checking it out.

        1. Thanks Mr. Spokony. Most of us posting here are regulars over on Chet's Blog. When will the second review come out and when will you be grilling, er I mean asking Spencer some in-depth quesitons?

          1. Each Chet and Bernie review is being done by a different LitStacker…and I believe the next one will be published this Friday. The interview with Spencer Quinn is due out about a week after that.

            And, as a journalist, I would never take offense to your mention of any "grilling" I may or may not do ;)…but I think we're going to be taking it easy on him this time. As always, fun times are to be had on LitStack…

          2. A lot of us have read all the interviews he has given and it seems like the same questions keep coming up. I hope whoever has the task of interviewing him will take a more unique approach. Peter Abrahams aka Spencer Quinn, has written tons of suspenseful thrillers not to mention young adult and kids books. If you are still stumped for an interesting question, you might want to ask him about the Iditarod.

          3. It's a common problem for people who become "public figures"…I remember interviewing John Mayall (of the Bluesbreakers) this past year and listening to him groan about the college kid asking him what were probably the same questions Rolling Stone put forth 35 years ago. It becomes difficult for interviewers in this setting, partially because we don't have a close relationship with the subject (which I might develop with a story source over time) and partially because it's near impossible to get someone to truly open up when you're not looking them in the eye.

            But we'll do our best to keep the fans happy, eh?

          4. Mr Spokony, Perhaps you could visit Chet's blog and see some of the stuff posted there. You might get a unique perspective on the way Spencer Quinn's fans view his work, and that could trigger some interesting questions.

  4. 'Dog On It' hooked me right away, maybe because I always imagine a certain Pug I know thinking like Chet. Although, I’m sure Chet is a lot funnier in his running narrative than what’s going on with my four-legged friend. Chet is such a loyal pal to Bernie he would do anything Bernie asks of him. I think we all want to believe that of our dogs, that they are our loyal friends through thick and thin.

    I was surprised at the depth of emotion I quickly grew to feel for Chet. There is a part in 'Dog On It' where Chet gets into some serious trouble. I could hardly read the words I was so afraid for him. Only a very talented writer could pull this scenario off and make it so amazingly believable. Thank you so much Spencer Quinn for the most wonderful, delightful, incredibly entertaining series ever written. I can hardly wait for the fourth book to come out this September!

  5. Sam Spokony's introduction of Chet is right on! Reading Dog On It , the first book in the Chet & Bernie Mysteries, I became an instant fan of Chet.. Where have we ever met such an enduring canine! Thereby Hangs a Tail and To Fetch a Thief continued the adventures, each book further developing the main characters and the reader's interest. I cannot wait to read The Dog Who Knew Too Much, to be released on Sept. 6, 2011.

  6. I just checked out Chet The Dogs blog. What a hoot! There are a bunch of dogs and cats posting out there. (ha!)

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