First Lines Fridays (3) @ChetTheDog @ForgeReads

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature
for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words.
What if instead of judging a book by its
cover, its author or its prestige, we judged
it by its opening lines?

Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your
current read or on your TBR) and open to
the first page. Copy the first few lines, but don’t
give anything else about the book away
just yet – you need to hook the reader first
Finally… reveal the book!

************

The Muertos throw the best Christmas party in the whole Valley. The Valley’s where we live, me and Bernie. It goes on forever in all directions, and is almost certainly in Arizona, based on things I hear from time to time. That’s not important. Is it important that the Muertos are the roughest, toughest biker gang around? Maybe to you, but not to us. The Little Detective Agency deals with the roughest and toughest every day. Little is Bernie’s last name, I’m Chet, pure and simple, and the agency’s just the two of us. Why would we need anyone else? That’s the important part.

The Muertos party takes place in their clubhouse and lasts for several days, but we usually leave before dawn on the first night. It gets pretty noisy what with the motorcycle races up and down the big staircase to the second floor, and a sort of dance on motorcycles to a tune called the hora, I believe, which I knew from a bat mitzvah where I’d come upon a forgotten tray of steak tip canapes, our departure following soon after.

Right now, as we made our way to the door, the hora amped down and Junior Ruiz, president of the Muertos, began zooming around in tight circles on his giant Harley with his wife on his shoulders and his mother on her shoulders. He braked to a stop beside us, revved the engine once or twice, and over its roar yelled, “Wanna climb up on Mama, Bernie?”

“Um,” said Bernie, “I don’t really—”

“Aw come on, Bernie,” Mama called down. “Where’s your sense of fun?”

“Very nice of you, given the history, but—”

“History? What history?”

“Didn’t you end up doing eighteen months at Northern State?”

“Turned out as only three on account of overcrowding. Three months I can do in my sleep.”

“Which is actually how it went down, no?” said Junior’s wife.

Mama, up on Junior’s wife’s shoulders, if I haven’t made that clear, gave Junior’s wife a sort of kick in the sides with the heels of her white cowboy boots, like she was on horseback. Junior’s wife did not look like a horse. She actually looked a lot like Mama, except younger and not quite so jiggly.

“Watch your mouth, girl,” Mama said. “And besides, Bernie, I’ll never forget how nicely you busted me—especially the way Chet grabbed my pant leg, so gently.”

Grabbing perps by the pant leg is how we close our cases, me doing the grabbing and Bernie standing by with the cuffs. I checked out Mama’s pants and wouldn’t you know? They were the exact same pants she’d been wearing that day, red leather with golden leather fringes! I remembered the taste of those golden fringes so well! Have you ever noticed how the taste of something—or even the memory of the taste—makes long-ago happenings suddenly pop up in your mind like they were just yesterday? It all came back to me: Mama lighting the fuse, the door blowing off the safe, Mama reaching inside with a lovely look on her face, so excited and alive, which was when we showed up. There’s a lot of fun to be had in this business. A strong breeze started up behind me. In practically no time I figured out it was my tail, feeling tip-top and letting all our Muertos buddies know. I couldn’t wait for . . . for whatever was going to happen after now.

************

It’s a Wonderful Woof
A Chet & Bernie Mystery #12
Spencer Quinn
Forge Books, October 2021

From the publisher—

Holiday time in the Valley, and in the holiday spirit―despite the dismal shape of the finances at the Little Detective Agency―Bernie refers a potential client to Victor Klovsky, a fellow private eye. It’s also true that the case―promising lots of online research but little action―doesn’t appeal to Bernie, while it seems perfect for Victor, who is not cut out for rough stuff. But Victor disappears in a rough-stuff way, and when he doesn’t show up at his mom’s to light the Hanukkah candles, she hires Chet and Bernie to find him.

They soon discover that Victor’s client has also vanished. The trail leads to the ruins of a mission called Nuestra Señora de los Saguaros, dating back to the earliest Spanish explorers. Some very dangerous people are interested in the old mission. Does some dusty archive hold the secret of a previously unknown art treasure, possibly buried for centuries? What does the Flight into Egypt―when Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus fled Herod―have to do with saguaros, the Sonoran desert cactus?

No one is better than Chet at nosing out buried secrets, but before he can, he and Bernie are forced to take flight themselves, chased through a Christmas Eve blizzard by a murderous foe who loves art all too much.