There’s a reason that in the title of this series, “Chet and Bernie,” the dog’s name comes first. As with all the other mysteries in the series, in “Tender is the Bite,” Chet, the almost-K9 shepherd, narrates the tale of his and Bernie’s adventures. Quinn presents this narration brilliantly, and it seems that with each new Chet and Bernie book, Chet’s narration gets better and better. Through Chet’s eyes (and ears and nose, which—no offense—are far superior to ours), we simultaneously know more and less that Bernie does. It’s a delicate balance, writing from the dog’s point of view, and Quinn has it nailed.
Returning to a Chet and Bernie book is like visiting with friends you haven’t seen in a while. You fall right back into the relationship, and you are happy to be catching up with the news. Bernie is still running the Little Detective Agency, and still barely making a living at it. They live in a modest house in an area surrounded by desert, and Bernie worries about the water table. But right now, they have more important things to worry about.
They are approached by a lovely young woman named Mavis who seems as if she wants Bernie’s services but then sees something in his car that causes her to run. We know, because of Chet’s narration, what that item is, but Bernie missed the event and remains mystified. Luckily, Bernie wrote down the license plate number, so he’s able to track down the owner of the car, which is not the lovely Mavis. As occurs in this scene, where Chet lets us know what Mavis saw in Bernie’s car that made her run away, Chet knows when people have been places. His super olfactory powers make that a simple task, but because he can only communicate with us and not Bernie, Bernie is the only one who remains in the dark. We, the readers, know more than he. Dog lovers will chuckle as the narration clearly points out Quinn’s familiarity with doggie thinking and doggie behavior. While Chet is a genius at reading people’s feelings, when they are, for example, nervous or calm, he’s not so smart about other matters. As he tells us, “Smells can tell a story. I assume you already knew that. Sometimes, the story can be hard to figure out. You’ve got the individual smells, say pizza and human puke, and then you’ve got when they were laid down. If the puke comes after the pizza, then it’s a simple little tale: some dude ate pizza that made him sick, and then he puked. But what if the pizza comes after the puke? What have you got them? In my job, I deal with problems like that all the time.” Clearly, Chet’s understanding of complex situations is lacking. But it never stops him from saving the day. The actual mystery involves corruption, greed, and blackmail. There are murders, and there are some characters from the past whom Bernie must deal with.
There’s also a new character, a police sergeant, who has a dog named Trixie who looks like a female version of Chet. We first learn that the dog disappeared, and then Bernie finds the dog injured at a murder site. Leaving the dead body behind, he rushes the severely wounded dog to his vet. Wouldn’t we all do the same? But when he returns to the scene of the murder, the body and all evidence is gone. But he’s saved Trixie, and Sergeant Weatherly will be eternally grateful. We suspect this duo will be back in future books, and I, for one, can’t wait to find out if Trixie is Chet’s sibling or daughter. There also might be a future for Bernie with the lovely Weatherly. Bernie handles his investigation, sans client at first, on his own with only his partner Chet for backup.
The two make a formidable pair, and here they are neck deep in politics when the election for US Senator is approaching, and the neighbors on either side of Bernie are each rooting for a different candidate. One candidate seems to be unusually involved with Ukrainians, and Bernie gets a surprising (read suspicious) job offer. While Bernie usually wants to stay out of politics, in this case, he can’t. And we love that Bernie is a straight shooter in more ways than one. He says it like it is, cheats no one, and stays two steps ahead of those who are out to get him. Most of the time. When the bad guys get the drop on Chet and Bernie, our heroes together always win. Even when the odds seem insurmountable.
That’s why we love reading this series. We know the dog wins. And Bernie, too. But especially the dog, right?
To get the full benefit of all the fabulous Chet and Bernie stories, start at the beginning with “Dog On It” and “Thereby Hangs a Tail,” followed by “To Fetch a Thief,” “The Dog Who Knew Too Much,” “A Fistful of Collars,” “The Sound and the Furry,” Paw and Order,” “Scents and Sensibility,” Heart of Barkness,” and “Of Mutts and Men.”
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Forge Books, the publisher, for review purposes.