Friday, August 24, 2012

A Fistful of Collars

"Find what's original about you and put it into words..." That writing advice is from Spencer Quinn (aka Peter Abrahams), author of the clever and winning Chet and Bernie mystery series

When once asked how his first book in the series, Dog On It, came about, Quinn offered, "My wife said, 'How about doing something with dogs?' The basic building blocks came to me right there at the kitchen table: two detective pals; narration by the four-legged one; and all in the first person, which I'd never tried before in a novel. Plus the most important thing - Chet would not be a talking dog (or be undoggy in any way) but would be a narrating dog. Anything that thinks and has memory must have a narrative going on inside. I went to the office--over the garage, commuting distance fifteen feet--and wrote the first page. Then I wanted to know what happened next."

Thus emerged the creation of Chet, a dog who flunked out of K-9 School, and Bernie, his human private eye companion--a wounded war vet and ex-cop, who wears flashy Hawaiian shirts and is clueless about woman and money-matters--who join forces to find missing persons, bad guys and solve crimes.

In A Fistful of Collars, the fifth installment in the series, Chet and Bernie are paid to "babysit" Thad Perry, an often volatile, Hollywood heartthrob who is in the "Valley," an unnamed state in the Western U.S., to film a blockbuster movie. The town swirls with excitement, even anticipating an economic boom.  But after a few days on the job, both Chet and Bernie sense there is more to their detail than meets the eye. After a little sniffing around and digging, they discover that Thad might be keeping dark secrets about his past and his connection to the Valley. Was he involved in some sort of crime?  Was there a cover-up? Why does it appear as though the mayor's office is involved? The more Chet and Bernie learn, the more the suspense escalates until they find themselves in danger. 

Quinn has written another entertaining read with surprising plot twists. As in the other adventures of Chet and Bernie, what makes these novels even more endearing is how Quinn fortifies the mystery, weaving it with engaging, often very funny, subplots. In A Fistful of Collars, they include stories about Bernie's rocky romantic relationships and how his six-year old son longs to be a movie star. Adding to the appeal is the lovable, perceptive narrative voice of Chet - his loathing of Thad Perry's cat, Brando, his fondness for food and the great affection and loyalty that bonds him with his owner/companion.

Spencer Quinn discusses how he showed signs of a burgeoning author even in childhood

A Fistful of Collars by Spencer Quinn
Atria Books, $25, Hardcover, 9781451665161, 320 pp
Publication Date: September 11, 2012
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE