Literature / Chet and Bernie
The Chet and Bernie mysteries are detective stories by Spencer Quinn (real name Peter Abrahams), narrated by the detective's dog. Bernie Little is a military veteran, an ex-cop, and currently a private detective in suburban Los Angeles. Chet is his 100-pound black-and-white mongrel, almost a graduate from police dog school (but not quite, due to an unfortunate accidental encounter with a cat at the final exams).
Titles in the series so far are:
- Dog on It (2009)
- Thereby Hangs a Tail (2010)
- To Fetch a Thief (2010)
- The Dog Who Knew Too Much (2011)
- A Fistful of Collars (2012)
- A Cat Was Involved (e-book, 2012)
Chet has his own Web site, Chet the Dog
Tropes featured include:
- Alien Lunch: Being a dog, Chet is more than willing to eat a number of things humans would never consider (along with everything we would consider). His best effort in the first book is probably a golf ball.
- Animal Jingoism: Chet hates cats. And birds, and horses, and raccoons, and foxes, and coyotes...
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Or "Ooh Smelly" in Chet's case. The reader often misses out on chunks of conversation between human characters, sometimes because Chet can't follow them, but at least as often because Chet was distracted by a sight, sound, or smell that's more interesting to a dog. Since Bernie habitually talks to Chet about the case, the reader catches up later.
- Berserk Button: Bernie has a mild one about urban sprawl and careless water usage in a desert.
- Big, Friendly Dog: Chet weight about 100 pounds and is quite friendly given the chance.
- Catch Phrase: Chet has several, perhaps appropriate to a narrator that can't really have language. "Don't get me started" about several pet peeves. "Have I mentioned that?" since his memory is very short term. "Whatever that is" or "I have no idea" when we run up against his intellectual limits.
- Defective Detective: Bernie, from Chet's point of view. Hearing less than mediocre, bad night vision, teeth good but only "for a human," and "don't get me started" about the lack of sense of smell. "I admire the way he never lets his handicaps get him down."
- Detective Animal: The foundation of the series. Chet takes this trope as realistically as possible. He's a realistic dog, without magic power or speech. He doesn't even talk to other animals. He only narrates to the reader.
- The Ditz: It may not be fair to call Chet a ditz, since he's very smart for a dog, but you still have a narrator that can forget what he was narrating about two paragraphs back. "I saw I had been digging a hole." He often doesn't even realize what he's doing, "'Chet, stop growling!' I was growling? Oops."
- Dog Stereotype: Chet is a classic heroic and street-wise mongrel, even though hardly anthropomorphized at all.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: Chet lost the tip of one ear to a knife-wielding villain. He doesn't care. It's not like his ears matched before, anyway (one black, one white).
- Hardboiled Detective: Chet has overtones of this in his staccato narrative style, though this may be more the result of his Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!.
- Informed Flaw: Chet knows Bernie thinks he can't see colors, particularly red, and Chet even admits to being "easily confused" about colors, but his narration contains all the usual color terms, though not as lavishly as the smell descriptions.
- "It" Is Dehumanizing: "Dehumanizing" isn't the right word, but Bernie always objects when people refer to Chet as "it" rather than "him."
- My Instincts Are Showing: Just like they do with real dogs.
- Nearly Normal Animal: Chet narrates to the reader but doesn't talk to anyone, not even other dogs. He probably understands more of human life than a real dog does or could, but then real dogs probably understand things we don't realize, just different ones than Chet does. For instance, he doesn't know what money is, but he knows Bernie worries a lot about it, and that "our finances are a mess." He even knows "a grand is nice. Two grand is even nicer."
- Pet the Dog: And Kick the Dog and even Shoot the Dog (or try to shoot him), all show up often and literally. They are, of course, important character-defining moments for both Chet and Bernie.
- Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism: Chet is quite close to the natural end.
- Xenofiction: A non-fantasy, non-SF example.