“Heart of Barkness”

“Heart of Barkness” by Spencer Quinn is book nine in the “Chet and Bernie” series. New readers should note that the series is a first-person narrative by Chet, the dog half of the duo, so the opinions, observations and conclusions are a bit different from those in other mystery books. Needed information from previous books is included as part of Chet’s current narrative, so new readers can easily follow along as Chet investigates everything and comments on people and events. Chet describes himself (and Bernie) as part of “The Little Detective Agency on account of Bernie’s last name being Little.”

Readers do have to get used to Chet’s style as the narrator. He makes constant observations and produces a running narrative of events from a dog’s perspective. He describes things as “straightforward,” “kind of weird,” or “maybe not worth thinking about.” He observes that “Humans can be tricky with smiles, and you have to watch carefully.” He states things with little if any emotion. “The dart player was headed for a yellow car parked in a far corner of the lot where the pavement stopped and the desert began.”

He has his own priorities; “If you’re going to play in this life, then play! And is there anything more fun than playing a brand-new game? This one was called Who Gets the Toothbrush. A very promising game!” He tells readers what he is doing; “My mind wandered a bit, and when my mind wanders I tend to look around, checking out the action. And what was this? The baby-faced dart player—actually both baby-faced and fuzzy-faced—was on the move, kind of sneaking through the darkness just beyond the pool of stage light. Sneakiness is something that gets my attention, big-time.”

He learns from past mistakes; “I sat beside the barrel cactus, close but not too close—I’d had an experience with a barrel cactus.” When danger lurks, he can be counted on to act; “And then I barked, barked like I’d never barked before, a savage howling bark that even scared me.”

“Heart of Barkness” is filled with humor and secrets, but ultimately it is the relationship between Chet and Bernie that makes the book wonderful.  I received a copy of “Heart of Barkness” from Spencer Quinn, Forge Books, and Macmillan Publishing Group. It was easy to read, yet had plenty of action and mystery. In the end, sometimes one should just trust a dog’s judgement about things and sing the “Song for Chet.”