It’s A Wonderful Woof
reviewed by Barbara Saffer
In the Chet and Bernie series, Bernie Little and his hundred-plus pound dog Chet run the Little Detective Agency in the Southwest United States. The books are narrated by Chet, whose somewhat limited vocabulary, unfamiliarity with idioms, and doggie logic set the stage for plenty of smiles. Bernie is a West Point graduate, good at his job, and Chet is his invaluable partner, always ready to clamp his jaw on perps and drag them off by the pants.
It’s Christmas season when the Little Detective Agency is offered a new case. A dapper little man called Lauritz Vogner, who describes himself as Mittel European goulash, offers Bernie a $5,000 retainer to look into a matter involving Baroque art. This isn’t Bernie’s kind of case though, and he gives Vogner the name of a colleague called Victor Klovsky – a timid sleuth who’s good at online research.
A couple of days later Bernie gets a call from Victor’s mother, who says her son is missing. As Bernie searches for Victor, he comes across a local example of Baroque architecture – an old deconsecrated mission church called Nuestra Señora de los Saguaros. When Bernie and Chet visit the antiquated ruin they meet archaeologist Dr. Johanna Borden, who’s digging holes in the property. Borden says she’s studying the site for a private non-profit, and claims to know nothing about Victor Klovsky. Chet observes that Johanna’s a little nervous however, because some smells are unmissable.
Various clues lead Bernie and Chet to a museum gift shop, an art professor, and a hotel, where they find a corpse showing signs of torture. It seems clear that someone is searching for something, and Bernie and Chet have to figure out what and why.
As always Chet helps with the investigation, this time while he and Bernie are searching the hotel room. Bernie mentions turning the place upside down and Chet quickly unhinges the toilet paper roll before Bernie can stop him. As luck would have it a small key is hidden inside the metal toilet paper thingies (as Chet calls them), and this leads to an important discovery.
The case turns out to be very complex, but Bernie and Chet are well up to the job.
While Bernie investigates the case he learns a little about Baroque art and architecture, the Italian painter Caravaggio, and the Spanish explorers that brought missions to Mexico and the American west. Bernie also pursues a romance with Police Sergeant Weatherly Wauneka, decorates Christmas trees, and has weekends with his 6-year-old son Charlie, who wants driving lessons as a Christmas gift.
As for Chet, he enjoys the entire experience, especially the snacks. Over the course of the investigation Chet snaps a pecan and pinon tart out of Bernie’s hand; scores a Slim Jim; sneaks a chewy out of a drawer; fishes the remains of a BLT out of a trash can; finds a potato chip; gets a T-R-E-A-T from someone’s pocket; and more.
The story is an entertaining Christmas adventure that points to a promising future for Bernie and Chet. It will be fun to see where they go next.
Thanks to Netgalley, Spencer Quinn, and Forge Books for a copy of the book.