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Literature / Chet and Bernie

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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 "The Valley," Arizona. 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:

  1. Dog on It (2009)
  2. Thereby Hangs a Tail (2010)
  3. To Fetch a Thief (2010)
  4. The Dog Who Knew Too Much (2011)
  5. A Fistful of Collars (2012)
  6. A Cat Was Involved (e-book, 2012)
  7. The Sound and the Furry (2013)
  8. The Iggy Chronicles, Volume One (e-book, 2013)
  9. Paw and Order (2014)
  10. Tail of Vengeance (e-book, 2014)
  11. Scents and Sensibility (2015)
  12. Santa 365 (e-book, 2015)
  13. Heart of Barkness (2019)

Chet has his own Web site, Chet the Dog.

Tropes featured include:

  • 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.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: In the first book, when Chet tries to take on two of the bad guys on his own, they lock him in the trunk of their car and take him to their leader, Gulagov. Gulagov attempts to retrain Chet and sell him to a dogfighting ring. When Chet escapes his cage, Gulagov tries to kill him.
  • Berserk Button: Bernie has a mild one about urban sprawl and careless water usage in a desert.
  • Big Bad: Gulagov, leader of The Mafiya sect in Nevada in the first book.
  • Big Friendly Dog: Chet weighs about 100 pounds and is quite friendly given the chance.
  • Catchphrase: 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.
  • Circus Episode: To Fetch a Thief centers around a traveling circus that comes to Chet and Bernie's town. Chet and Bernie are hired by Popo the Clown to investigate the disappearance of Peanut the elephant.
  • 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.
  • Determinator: Bernie is steadfast and dedicated to serving justice. In the first book, Maddie, whose disappearance Bernie was investigating, convinces her parents that she ran away because she needed alone time and would come home soon.note  Maddie's parents are content thinking their daughter is safe, but Bernie knows something suspicious is going on. Despite multiple characters insisting that there is no case anymore, and despite the fact that he's not getting paid for it, Bernie continues his investigation anyway because he's certain that Maddie is in trouble. He turns out to be correct.
  • 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.
  • Dramatic Irony: In the first book, Chet the dog is kidnapped by the villains fairly early on. He sees their hideout, meets the Big Bad, and sees that they have Madison Chambliss, the girl whose disappearance Chet and Bernie are investigating. Chet eventually escapes, but since Chet is a Nearly Normal Animal who cannot talk to humans, he is unable to tell Bernie what he saw, forcing Bernie to figure out the villains' identities and location himself.
  • Extreme Omnivore: 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.
  • Genius Bruiser: Bernie is competent as a detective, but since he's a military vet, he's even better at roughing up bad guys.
  • 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!.
  • Hostage Situation: This is Maddie's situation in Dog on It. Her father, Damon, took out a loan from The Mafiya to finance his development project, but he was too slow to repay them, so they kidnapped Maddie to blackmail him into making the payments faster.
  • 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."
  • Leeroy Jenkins: When Chet sees someone he knows is bad, he tends to run over and attack them without any forethought. This gets him in trouble in the first book when two criminals overpower and kidnap him. Later in the book, as Chet is about to rush into action again, he admits to the reader that he prefers to let Bernie do the thinking.
  • The Mafiya: A small, but utterly ruthless sect of Russian gangsters (with an American henchman as well) are the main antagonists of the first book.
  • Meaningful Name: Gulagov from the first book. He is a Russian mob boss whose name contains "Gulag." When his men kidnap Chet the dog, Gulagov keeps Chet locked up, planning to retrain him and sell him to a dogfighting ring, which, to a dog, could be considered comparable to the Gulag. Doubles with Names to Run Away from Really Fast.
  • 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.