In “Of Mutts and Men,” the charming man and dog duo of Chet and Bernie are solving crimes together again, courtesy of Spencer Quinn, who writes as fabulous a dog narrative as anyone. Chet is the four-legged narrator who allows us to participate, albeit virtually, in how the two intrepid detectives solve the crime of one Wendell Nero, a hydrologist who was found with his throat cut, while working at the remote Dollhouse Canyon.
Almost all of the Chet and Bernie stories take place in an unspecified location in the western part of the US where water is scarce and Bernie worries about the aquifers. While Chet doesn’t exactly understand what an aquifer is, he is able to share those concerns without full comprehension. Chet, in fact, shares a lot with us even though, as he is the first to point out, he doesn’t fully understand everything. And he’s fine with that because he leaves the heavy thinking to Bernie, as he shares on page 20:
“Humans tend to close their eyes when deep thoughts are going on. Maybe it helps them. I’m not the one to ask, deep thoughts not something I bring to the table.”
Because Chet is the narrator and is possessed of a fine doggy nose, we are privy to clues that poor Bernie, without that skill, is not. We know whose scent was left at the scene of the crime, and we know who kidnapped Chet with the intent that he suffer a horrible fate. But Bernie, although cursed with a miserable human nose, has a detective mind, and eventually, he learns what Chet knew all along.
Many questions arise over the course of this story. Why is a fancy attorney representing the guy accused of the murder of Wendy, as Wendell Nero is known? Why is this person, who Bernie does not believe committed the crime, being convinced to plead guilty? Why is everyone anxious to close the case?
Fans of this series know that with each book, Bernie’s character changes and grows. That is certainly the case in this book. It’s fun to watch Bernie’s personal life and wonder where Quinn is taking him. So while this works perfectly well as a stand alone mystery, why not start at the beginning and read all the “Chet and Bernie” mysteries? You’ll love them, and you’ll wish you had a dog like Chet. And after reading Chet’s narrative, you might just wonder what your dog is thinking when it looks at you with that devoted stare.
Start with “Dog On It,” the first mystery and work your way through this engaging series. Don’t miss “The Sound and the Furry,” which takes place in New Orleans, and perhaps my favorite, “To Fetch a Thief,” which features Peanut, an elephant.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Forge, the publisher, for review purposes.