“Bark to the Future” is the latest doggie mystery featuring the charismatic narrator Chet, a distinctive black shepherd-mix dog with one white ear, who tells the story as only a dog might. And in the capable paws, er, hands, of author Spencer Quinn, we chuckle and nod our heads in amusement as we realize that Chet’s narrative is just what our dogs might say if only we could understand them.
Because our narrator is sometimes unreliable (please don’t tell Chet I said that), we occasionally miss out on information. However, because our narrator has a powerful dog ability to smell, he shares information with us that Bernie, his detective partner with his pitiful, poorly designed human nose, is unable to access. We know about the guy with the minty smell and which smell is present in some locations, but Bernie doesn’t. And Chet shares with us everything he hears and sees—and smells.
We love Chet’s reasoning, especially when it’s very much from a dog’s point of view. When hearing someone talk about a cathouse in Nogales, Arizona, Chet says, “A cathouse—actually something I’d never seen and had no desire to—would be kind of small. Otis, even as a kid, could never have squeezed inside. How nice to be following the conversation so well! Was it possible I was…was getting smarter?” We laugh as Chet explains that he can’t count past two, and numbers like three can be confusing.
This mystery, as might be deduced from the clever title, takes Bernie back to revisit his high school haunts and acquaintances. Someone he crossed paths with in high school has had a tough life and is panhandling on a freeway ramp when Bernie and Chet first see him. After connecting in a very cursory way, the guy, nicknamed Rocket, disappears. Bernie feels compelled to find out what happened to Rocket, and along the way, people are getting killed. There are the compulsory inept sheriff’s deputies, the desert hikes, and a slot canyon flood; and we see Bernie’s relationship with Weatherly, the cop whose dog has an uncanny resemblance to Chet, develop.
Bernie is Bernie, and in addition to enjoying his quirky persona, new readers will enjoy hearing about the Hawaiian pants scheme, the tin mines, and his son Charlie. Chet is pure devotion, canine intelligence, and humorous sidekick. Starting a new Chet and Bernie mystery is like reconnecting with an old friend, a doggy friend, a chance to see the world through the eyes of a hugely likable, charming friend: Chet, our good boy. Dive in and enjoy the adventure. You’ll look at your own four-legged friend with new eyes.
Please note: This review was first published on Bookreporter.com.