Sunday, August 30, 2015

First Pages in Fiction: Scents and Sensibility

The first paragraphs of a novel can set the foundation for what's to follow in terms of tone, character and story intent.

Here are the first few paragraphs from the novel, Scents and Sensibility by Spencer Quinn:

Home at last! We'd been away so long, first in swampy country, then in a big city--maybe called Foggy Bottom--that confused me from the get-go. Is there time to mention the air in both those places before we really get started? Soggy and heavy: that sums it up.

Where were we? Was it possibly . . . home? Yes! Home! Home at last! Our home--mine and Bernie's--is on Mesquite Road. Mesquite Road's in the Valley. Quite recently I might have heard that the Valley's in Arizona, but don't count on that. What matters is that right now I was inhaling a nice big noseful of Valley air. Light and dry, with a hint of greasewood and just plain grease: perfect. I felt tip-top. Bernie opened our door, kicked aside a huge pile of mail, and we went in.

"Ah," said Bernie, dropping our duffel bag on the floor. I did the first thing that came to mind--just about always my MO--which in this case meant sniffing my way from room to room to room, zigzagging back and forth, nose to floor. Front hall, our bedroom, Charlie's bedroom--mattress bare on account of Charlie not being around much since the divorce--office, with the circus-elephant-pattern rug, where I actually picked up the faint whiff of elephant, even though no elephant had ever been in the office. I'd had some experience with elephants, specifically an elephant name of Peanut, no time to go into that now...

Do you get the idea the narrator isn't a person? Can you tell the voice leading you into the story is that of a dog? How? The speaker seems conflicted, yet what person do you know who sniffs his way from room to room? And the setting? It's telling that the speaker doesn't really know where "the Valley" is located, but as he inhales a "big, noseful of Valley air," he finds it light and dry, so we can gather this scene is set in the desert. And what's with the elephant rug? Well, that's what makes the reader keep reading...

If you're not familiar with the Chet and Bernie mystery-thriller series, you're missing out. Each book, there are eight in all, is narrated by Chet, a hyperactive dog, who works with his laid-back master and partner, Bernie Little of the Little Detective Agency.

In Scents and Sensibility, the duo have returned home from visiting Bernie's girlfriend in Washington D.C. and realize they've been robbed. The safe in Bernie's office has been pried out of a wall and stolen—complete with a prized watch that belonged to Bernie's grandfather. Then they realize their neighbor has an adult son (one they never knew he had, who is now residing next door) and also has a mature Saguaro Cactus suddenly growing on his front lawn. Where did it come from? How did it get there? It's against the law to move a cactus of this variety. Knowing the neighbor had a key to Chet and Bernie's house in case of emergency, is it possible the neighbor's son is the thief and the cactus transporter? What begins as a simple welcome home set-up evolves into another caseanother dangerous, crime-solving adventure—for Chet and Bernie involving cactus thieves, murder and a kidnapping.

This clever, funny and riveting series is perfect for fans of crime/mystery fiction and animal/pet lovers.

Atria Books, $25.00 Hardcover, 9781476703428, 320 pp
Publication Date: July 14, 2015
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE