Sunday, June 23, 2013

Book Review: Dog on It by Spencer Quinn (Chet and Bernie Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Inventive narration that mostly works; lovable main characters
Cons: Plot needed to be constructed better
The Bottom Line
The plot has issues
But you'll have such fun with Chet
You'll hardly notice

Dog on It - I Might Have Found a New Series

I am perpetually behind on books to read.  The last thing I need is a new series.  And yet every time I write that, it's because I've found a fun new series that I want to continue reading.  That's the case with Dog on It.

Our tail is told from the point of view of Chet as he and Bernie try to track down a missing teenager.  What appears to be a false alarm turns serious when she really does disappear.  As the duo investigate, they discover that the girl was being followed.  Is that her kidnapper?

On the surface, this looks like your typical PI novel, and in some ways it is, right down to the sometimes drinking, loner of a PI.  The catch is that Chet, our narrator, is Bernie's almost police trained dog.  We don't quite get the story of why Chet never finished the K9 program, but it is quite clear he was never an official police dog.  He does a good job at helping solve the case, however, and feels like a real character.

Outside of Chet, Bernie is the next character who feels real.  Many of the characters feel a bit two dimensional, but then again, most of them don't have enough page time to become real.  They are real enough for the story to work, and Chet is dynamic enough as a view point into the story to make the book highly entertaining.  I had a hard time putting it down any time I was reading.

That's not to say that the book doesn't have some flaws.  The narration is a two edged sword.  It is well done, and it really does feel like a super friendly, energetic dog is narrating the story.  He's definitely a limited viewpoint character who gets distracted at times, but the author keeps that viewpoint consistent.  However, at times he does too good a job.  Chet repeats himself at times, which is cute once or twice, but by the end of the novel I found it getting a little annoying.

There are also some plotting issues.  A major event takes place early in the story and is then pretty much ignored for 100 pages.  During that time, we learned things that we needed to learn to fully understand the plot, so it's not like we were wasting time.  However, it would have made more sense to plot this event in the second half.

The climax was also weak.  It required a major leap of logic and a bad case of deus ex machina.  It was this last part that really annoyed me because there's no effort made to even explain how things happened.  I'll believe many things if you explain them to me, but you've got to at least try.

Despite these flaws, I enjoyed this book enough to read the next and hope the author has improved his craft.  Like a friendly dog, Dog on It is just too much fun not to like.

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