Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Sound and the Furry by Spencer Quinn (release date 9/10/13)

Atria Books, $25, 320 pages

The Sound and the Furry was definitely more fun than breaking rocks in the hot sun, and there were laughs up the yingyang.

This is the sixth Bernie (human) and Chet (dog) adventure. As usual, Chet is the narrator. That means that the plot doesn't travel from A to Z but is often interrupted by disquisitions on what is the tastiest kind of chicken ball, why Bernie shouldn't put checks in his shirt pocket, and poop, including but not limited to "javelina, buzzard, snake, coyote, cougar, goat, lizard, human."

Chet is the best doggy storyteller, bar none. Besides his superlative narrative skills, he is loyal, smart (most of the time), and fiercely protective of Bernie. Chet has endearing narrative peculiarities. He occasionally reminisces about past cases -- Bernie is a private investigator in Arizona -- the punchline to which is always that the "perps" are "breaking rocks in the hot sun." Also, Chet is fond of using the word "yingyang," as in "Freeways we've also got out the yingyang," and "checks, practically out the yingyang."

On the other hand, human talk frequently befuddles him. He takes figures of speech literally. For example, when Bernie remarks about an event leaving a bad taste in his mouth, Chet frets:

Bernie had a bad taste in his mouth? I felt sorry for him. At the same time, I let my tongue roam around my own mouth, and what do you know? Up in the roof part, hidden away in one of those hard ridges? Yes! A Cheeto!

This time around Bernie and Chet travel to New Orleans and Louisiana's bayou country to find a missing inventor. The inventor's name is Ralph Boutette and his hayseed brothers are Duke, Lord, and Baron. Ralph lucked out on both his name and his brains, having inherited not just his share but his brothers' as well.

Where is Ralph? Is he a casualty in the generations-old feud that the Boutettes have with the Robideaus? Was it a drug cartel moving into his neighborhood? Did he invent something significant? Was one of his ornery, thieving brothers to blame? There are quirky characters aplenty. And who or what is Iko and why should everyone beware?

I am so entertained by Chet's ramblings that it took me a while to get the hang of Bernie's character. There's still a disconnect between the goofy private eye -- who lost his (aloha) shirt on an investment in aloha pants, who stammers when a pretty woman talks to him, and who would lose his paychecks if Chet weren't around -- and the West Point educated, sharp-shooting, heroic Iraqi war veteran and martial artist. It can be disconcerting when suddenly Bernie hi-yahs a bad guy or shoots what he's aiming for. I guess I still don't have Bernie's number. (The number would be two, if Chet were asked, two being the highest he can count.)

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