September 16, 2013

A dog and his partner take on the bayou

By Spencer Quinn
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The Sound and the Furry is the 6th book in Spencer Quinn’s delightful and insightful Chet and Bernie mystery series. Bernie’s the human detective, while his canine partner, Chet, narrates each book, lending his singular methodology to the unique crime-solving team. Chet lives in every moment (we envy him), with few muddy introspections to divert him from the joy of the present, whether it’s riding shotgun with Bernie or the taste of bacon.

Chet and Bernie spring from the fertile brain of well-known crime fiction author Peter Abrahams, who kept his alter ego of Spencer Quinn a secret through the first few books of this series. Quinn/Abrahams, a serious dog lover himself, interprets and elaborates on the dog-human bond with great inventiveness, and Chet and Bernie’s separate skills make them a funny and surprisingly successful team. Who’s in charge? Hard to say. Bernie does the head work, but Chet smells the smells and hears the snaps in the bushes long before his human companion does, and his instinct for nosing out a bad guy is right on target.

Fact is, though, all this canine wit and wisdom would wear quickly without the added dimension of a good plot and well-drawn human characters with staying power. The Sound and the Furry scores high as a complicated and suspenseful page-turner. Here the duo has left their Southwest desert hometown to head for Faulkner country, deep in Louisiana. They’re looking for a missing man—a straight arrow, jazz-loving, dog-owning guy named Ralph who’s a member of the edge-of-the-law Boutette family.

The Boutettes have an ancient feud with the Robideaus across the bayou bridge, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are dudes with cowboy hats and dudes with facemasks, troublemakers from an oil company inaccurately named Green Oil, and an intense drug gang called the Quieros. And in one genuinely scary chapter, Chet faces a watery match with a frightening creature named Iko.

How does a shrimp heist tie in with a fatal drug overdose, oil-covered birds and Ralph’s mysterious disappearance? Readers will have a grand time piecing it all together with Chet and Bernie.

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