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Monday, September 13, 2010

To Fetch a Thief, by Spencer Quinn (hardcover, $25) (release date: 9/28/10)

Chet, a dog, is the narrator of this funny series. Actually, this third book is less funny than the others. There's more plot, and we get to see Bernie, Chet's master, kick some butt. Up until now Bernie has appeared as a laid-back, stammering, lovable goof. His reporter girlfriend described his walk as "shambling," and that summed up his persona as well until this book. In To Fetch a Thief, Spencer Quinn toughens up his creation. A Gulf War veteran and an ex-police officer, Bernie can walk the walk when he needs to. We actually meet some of his prior "acquaintances," including the tough-talking proprietor of a tough-looking biker bar and the madame of a house of ill repute. (Quinn missed his opportunity to call it a cathouse, with Chet wondering where the cats were. To boost the hilarity quotient, Quinn doesn't miss many opportunities to have Chet misunderstand Bernie's expressions.)

Once again we are privy to the simple thoughts of a simple dog. Which is not to say that Chet is dumb. Chet is very, very smart. Let's just not talk about why he didn't graduate from the doggie police academy.

Before I go on, let me just open up the book at random and quote you a bit of text. Remember, this is Chet speaking:
...Uh-oh. Mexico. We'd worked down there before, the Salazar kidnapping and another case I couldn't remember, except for part of a pork taco I'd scarfed up behind a cantina. My guys, not all but some, are different in Mexico -- real tough customers, red-eyed dudes, lean and mean. Got into some scraps down in Mexico, and so did Bernie. The Mexican vet had to stitch me up; she stitched up Bernie, too. She was nice, kind of fell for Bernie, which led to complications on account of she forgot to mention her husband. But he turned out to be a real bad shot, so it ended up okay.
There are lots of references to former cases, in which so-and-so is now in an orange jumpsuit breaking rocks in the hot sun. Chet also refers to Mexico as "south of the border, down Mexico way," because Bernie always hums that tune when they cross the border. These are doggy references that just crack me up.

In many ways, it doesn't really matter what this book is about. It's not about the plot, it's about Chet. Chet thinks like this: kidnapping, kids, napping, maybe he should lie down ... oh, where was he? Once again, let me reiterate that Chet is not a doofus. He has tracking, herding, leaping (for better or worse), and attacking skills, many of which he learned at the doggie police academy. (Let's not talk about why he didn't graduate.) At any rate, this is what the book is about: a circus elephant and her trainer disappear. The elephant's disappearance relates to a bigger whoop-de-do that takes Chet and Bernie to Mexico. There are muy loco bad guys. Chet would like them to be in orange jumpsuits breaking rocks in the hot sun.

Less hilarity than in the past ensues, but it ensues anyway. And readers get to spend time with Chet. That's better than breaking rocks in the hot sun, especially in an orange jumpsuit.

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