A Fistful of Collars
How could you not fall in love with the narrator of “A Fistful of Collars,” Spencer Quinn’s latest installment in his Chet and Bernie Mystery series?
Chet is a happy guy who celebrates the little things: A glorious sunrise. Time with friends. A plate of nice, juicy ribs.
He sees the best in most people. A realist, Chet knows not everyone is a good guy, at least not all the time, so he gladly helps his partner, Bernie, take care of the ones who aren’t.
Bernie is a private investigator who is, simply, the best guy in the world, in Chet’s opinion. And who’s a better judge? After all, they spend almost every moment together, both at work and at leisure. Chet even sleeps at the foot of Bernie’s bed, at least part of the night; later, he likes to move to the living room, where he can better hear the whisper of cruising cars and cats.
The feeling is mutual, too: Bernie considers Chet both a great partner, whose speed and teeth make criminals quiver, and a great buddy. He’s always ready with a jumbo-size dog biscuit and a kind word, assuring Chet that while he can’t open doors or hold a gun, he “brings other things to the table.”
This time, perpetually near-broke Bernie gets a lucrative, piece-of-cake assignment to keep a dashing actor on task (ie., away from booze and drugs). But Bernie being Bernie, as Chet tells us, he can’t ignore that criminal activity is taking place. So soon Bernie and Chet are chasing a tale that involves both a long-ago murder and a more current one.
The mystery is fine here, but it definitely plays second fiddle to the characterization. Quinn nicely fleshes out everyone Chet encounters, from the old men who live next door to Bernie’s little boy and ex-wife to the yes-men who surround the actor. And we meet them not with the limited senses available to humans, but with the more fully developed nose, eyes and ears of a canine.
And as the book ends, we get a hint that there will be more mysteries for Chet and Bernie to solve in the future — including one that even Chet knows nothing about.
“A Fistful of Collars: A Chet and Bernie Mystery,” by Spencer Quinn, Atria Books, 2012.