A Fistful of Collars
Atria Books, September 2012
From the publisher—
Hoping to bring some Tinseltown money to the Valley, the mayor lures a movie studio to town to shoot their next production, a big-budget Western in the classic tradition. The star is none other than ruggedly handsome—and notoriously badly behaved—Thad Perry. When the mayor decides that someone needs to keep an eye on Thad so that he doesn’t get into too much trouble, Bernie and Chet are handpicked for the job. The money is good but something smells fishy, and what should have been a simple matter of babysitting soon gets more complicated—especially when they discover that Thad has a mysterious connection to the Valley that nobody wants to talk about. What kind of secret could Thad have left behind when he went to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune? The only people who might know the answer have a bad habit of turning up dead before they can talk.
As Bernie’s relationship with his longtime girlfriend Suzie goes long-distance, and Chet’s late-night assignations appear to have resulted in an unexpected dividend, it’s all our two sleuths can do to keep Thad and his motley entourage of yes-men, handlers, and hangers-on in their sights. Worst of all, Thad is a self-proclaimed cat person, and his feline friend Brando has taken an instant dislike to Chet.
Books featuring animals, particularly dogs and cats, are very popular with many readers. Especially in the mystery field, they appear as major characters, talking among themselves and sometimes to their favorite humans and frequently they sleuth with vim and vigor. Do readers find this entertaining? A lot of us do but there are also many who wouldn’t read one of these books under any circumstances. Usually, it’s because they don’t like the aspect of the animals acting like humans.
And then there’s Chet.
Chet and Bernie make an unusual pair of detectives and, yes, Chet does contribute to their investigations but not through supernatural or Beatrix Potterish means. Chet is a K-9 school flunkee so he “knows” a bit about detective work but he is, in fact, a dog and his sleuthing generally involves him pursuing normal dog routines, such as following scents. What makes Chet different in the mystery novel arena is (1) his close bond with Bernie and (2) his narration of the story.
Seeing and hearing the story through Chet’s eyes and voice is fun, especially when he ruminates on the strange ways of Bernie and other humans and offers his observations on life during the investigations, not to Bernie but to the reader. The enticing things that distract him at any given moment, squirrels and burgers and so forth, add to the charm and his devotion to Bernie (and Bernie’s devotion to Chet) is completely natural.
Is this a gripping, intellectual thriller? No, not at all, but the puzzle and the resultant inquiries are engaging. Add in the pleasures of Chet’s and Bernie’s partnership and the reader will enjoy a few hours of pure entertainment with more than the occasional smile. I’ve had fun with every Chet and Bernie Mystery so far and A Fistful of Collars is another good one.
Oh, and you don’t want to miss Brando the cat.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2012.