Book Review: To Fetch a Thief by Spencer Quinn

To Fetch a Thief
Spencer Quinn
Atria, 2010
ISBN 978-1-4391-5707-7
Hardcover

Bernie Little and his 100-pound dog, Chet the Jet, are partners in the Little Detective Agency.  A bit odd, one might say – unless one has ‘met’ Chet in either or both of his two prior appearances, Dog on It and Thereby Hangs a Tail.  If one has encountered Chet previously, it is not at all odd – Chet has both natural instincts and other abilities gained through Bernie’s tutelage that make him an invaluable asset.  When last seen, they had been hired to find a tiny show dog named Princess, which they successfully accomplished, of course.  This time around the missing “person” is another four-legged one:  Peanut, an African elephant [the largest ones in the world, apparently], and, incidentally, its trainer, a man with a reputation as the greatest, if not also the most humane, elephant trainer in the circus world.  [Both of them had been working in a family-owned traveling circus.]

Bernie is ex-Metro PD and a Vietnam Vet; Chet is an almost-graduate of K9 school, the ‘almost’ factor the result of an unfortunate incident on the very last day of school.  [In this entry, the reader is filled in on the day on which and the manner in which Chet and Bernie first met and got together.]  And as Chet keeps reminding us, they make a great team.

The immediate question is:  How does one hide an African elephant? Apparently, no one had seen anything amiss, or seen either Peanut or her trainer leaving the circus grounds.  Matters get more serious when the trainer’s dead body is found, the manner of death being as much a mystery as anything else:  He was fatally bitten by a snake not indigenous to any part of the United States.  A sub-plot deals with Charlie’s ex-wife and her impending marriage to a man who seems to have no interest in settling down with one woman, and Bernie fears his adored son may have an unstable household in his future, which cannot be allowed.

I am the first to admit that I am not enamored of books with talking animals, especially ones that solve crimes.  Chet is an absolute exception to that general preference, he is such a charmer, and a terrific and professional detective as well, as we find out yet again. This was such a welcome change from the spate of serial killers in my recent reading [good as they might have been]!  Chet, and the novel, are completely captivating, and the book is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2010.

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