Book Review: Of Mutts and Men by Spencer Quinn
This is apparently the tenth in this series of cozy mysteries about PI Bernie Little and his dog Chet, an almost K-9 who failed his final test due to an unfortunate incident involving a cat. There are quite a few references to previous cases but it’s lightly done and I don’t think you lose too much by coming in here, principally because the story is told in the first person narrative voice of Chet. Yes, the dog is the narrator. And being a dog, he lives very much in the moment, regularly distracted by thoughts such as whether it’s dinner time yet, whether any given person he meets might give good pats, and where exactly that slice of pizza went because it was just there.
There’s an intriguing little mystery in here involving the discovery of a new aquifer under the desert which several unscrupulous people would rather nobody knew anything about until they’ve finished buying up all the potential rights. Bernie and Chet stumble into it when a hydrologist asks Bernie to meet him to consult about something, and the duo find the man’s body with a slit throat instead.
This was really fun. There’s an inbuilt limit to how much of the case the reader can understand because the whole thing is filtered through Chet’s point of view, Chet who isn’t sure whether thirty is a bigger amount than fifty. He’s obviously a Good Dog, and Bernie’s just as clearly a smart guy who puts things together quicker than most, and watching the two of them figure stuff out together is really quite charming. The environmental message isn’t dwelled on because Chet has no real comprehension of it, but it’s obvious from the lengths the villains are willing to go to that it matters a lot.
I honestly don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like this before; I’ve read a few cozy mysteries from the PoV of the animal sidekick, but this was the first one where the narrator really ‘felt’ like an animal. Chet wasn’t anthropomorphised; he’s a dog, a smart one and well trained, but definitely a dog. I definitely enjoyed the read and I’m happy to give it five stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.