Book Review: Tender Is The Bite by Spencer Quinn
This is actually the second book in two days I’ve read told in the narrative voice of a dog (the other was the romcom Pug, Actually) but this one is a mystery, 11th in a series about private eye Bernie and his failed-out-of-K9-training companion Chet. I have read one of the previous books in the series, Of Mutts and Men, but I don’t think you need to have read any of them to enjoy this, and it’s primarily because Chet is the narrator and Chet, being a dog, lives very much in the moment. He doesn’t spend his days reminiscing about past cases. He’s much more concerned about where his next meal is coming from, and when, than about the last one.
The case, beginning with a scared young woman who comes to Bernie and Chet for help but bails before actually telling them what help she needs, gets political quickly and being politics, it gets dirty. There are at least a couple of dead bodies in the book, and at least one of them is highly illegally dealt with by Bernie for reasons that are never explained because Chet doesn’t comprehend them. It’s an inherent problem with telling the story from the dog’s point of view because Chet can see and hear things - and we can then interpret them - but if Bernie doesn’t actually explain his motivation out loud, there’s no way for us to deduce it.
It’s interesting to solve the case alongside Chet and Bernie, because filtering it through Chet’s point of view means the reader has to do quite a bit of mental gymnastics to put the pieces together because Chet lacks the comprehension to do it for us. He is a Very Good Dog but concepts like blackmail are way outside his understanding.
I didn’t like this one quite as much as the previous one in the series I read, and I can’t quite put my finger on why. I think it’s perhaps because I was more invested in the mystery, and then, just as it was getting good and we were about to learn something… Chet would get distracted or decide it was time for a nap. It got extremely frustrating, and there’s no real acknowledgement of that because Chet, of course, is perfectly happy with his lot. He’s only frustrated when the Slim Jims don’t come along frequently enough. I’ll give it four stars.
Tender Is The Bite is available now.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.