Thereby Hangs a Tail by Spencer Quinn

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Thereby Hangs a Tail by Spencer Quinn

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Fairhead
Reviewed by Sue Fairhead
Summary: A private investigator and his dog solve a mystery. Narrated by the dog - and yes, it works.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: October 2010
Publisher: Pocket Books
ISBN: 978-1847398376

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I have to admit to both skepticism and curiosity when I realised that this novel is narrated by a dog. It's crime fiction, which isn't my usual genre of choice; I don't like anything gorier or more suspenseful than Agatha Christie's relatively tame works. But the pun in the book's title suggested that there might be an element of humour, so I succumbed to my instincts and requested this book.

Chet - the dog - and Bernie, his human, are a team of private investigators. They're asked to work as bodyguards for a valuable pedigree dog called Princess who has won some shows, after what is believed to be a death thread. Tempted by the large fee offered, rather than the job itself, they go to meet Princess and her owner - and Chet, unfortunately, gets them fired before they even begin.

Then Princess is dog-napped. Her owner disappears too, as does Suzie, a reporter whom both Bernie and Chet are rather fond of. So they're hired again, and set out on the trail... only to be forcibly separated for a while.

The writing is really very clever. Chet gives a meandering narrative, which feels remarkably dog-like. He knows that he has an important job, and his world revolves around Bernie... but he can also be quickly distracted by balls, and sticks, and various enjoyable snacks. He considers Bernie the most intelligent person he has ever come across, but can't quite understand why Bernie's sense of hearing and smell are so poor.

So alongside the narrative which moves the plot forward are Chet's thoughts about coyote smells, and bacon, and vague memories from the past which aren't too clear in his mind, but hint at an exciting career. There are also some humorous moments when Chet misunderstands a word or cliché. If I were reading this as a whodunit, I would probably have been disappointed. It wasn't difficult to guess who was responsible for the crime, fairly early in the book. Moreover, some of the things that Chet sees, hears and smells while he's separated from Bernie mean that we, the readers, know more than Bernie does when he thinks that he's solving the puzzle.

However, I found myself intrigued to know how Bernie could possibly learn what Chet already knows, given that the dog (despite apparently being able to write) can't speak to him. I liked them both, too; Bernie isn't always very wise, and finds himself regularly in bad financial situations, but he has a good instinct for solving mysteries, he's a crack shot with a gun, and he likes to see justice done. There is some violence in the book, and a couple of other unpleasant scenes, but nothing to give me sleepless nights. All in all, I enjoyed it considerably.

Apparently this is the second in the series by Spencer Quinn; the first book about Chet and Bernie is called Dog On It. However, it's not necessary to have read that first.

Many thanks to the publishers for sending this to BookBag.

For more humour in the crime category we can recommend The Herring In The Library by L C Tyler.

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Buy Thereby Hangs a Tail by Spencer Quinn at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Thereby Hangs a Tail by Spencer Quinn at


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