‘Heart Of Barkness’ – Chet and Bernie Mysteries #9 by Spencer Quinn

Chet the dog, “the most lovable narrator in all of crime fiction” (Boston Globe) and P.I. Bernie encounter heartache and much worse in the world of country music. They’re both music lovers, so when Lotty Pilgrim, a country singer from long ago, turns up at a local bar, they drive out to catch her act. Bernie’s surprised to see someone who was once so big performing in such a dive, and drops a C-note the Little Detective Agency can’t afford to part with into the tip jar. The C-note is stolen right from under their noses – even from under Chet’s, the nose that misses nothing – and before the night is over, it’s stolen again.

Soon they’re working the most puzzling case of their career, a case that takes them back in time in search of old border-town secrets, and into present-day danger where powerful people want those secrets to stay hidden. Chet and Bernie find themselves sucked into a real-life murder ballad where there is no one to trust but each other.


I know I can turn to the Chet and Bernie Mysteries whenever I need a smile. They give me a convincing and funny dog’s eye view as Chet the dog works with his partner, the P.I. Bernie Little, to solve a mystery. As I read the first three books, ‘Dog On It’,  ‘Thereby Hangs A Tail’ and ‘To Fetch A Thief’, they kept getting better and better.

Some of the books aren’t available as audiobooks in the UK so I decided to skip forward in the series to the ninth book, ‘Heart Of Barkness’ so my wife and I could listen to it on a couple of long and boring car journeys.

Chet is a wonderful narrator. Spencer Quinn knows dogs and has the skills to get you inside Chet’s head where optimism always overcomes adversity and difficult ideas, slip through his mind too fast to grab hold of. We found ourselves laughing out loud several times at Chet’s one-liners. Here’s an example. Bernie is sleeping after having recently returned from hospital. Chet has just done something he’s pleased with and, in his excitement, has made his way into Bernie’s room is now standing over Bernie as he sleeps. This is his reasoning:

I knew two things for sure. One – he needed his sleep. Two – I needed a treat. Right there is why it’s usually better to know just one thing.

Then there are short lines like:

‘There was no time to think. This is when I’m at my best.’

‘Heart Of Barkness’ kept us amused throughout our drive but it was a little light on plot and a little too heavy on Chet one-liners by comparison to the previous books. The country and western theme didn’t work well for me and the conceit the plot was based on was far-fetched, even for something as light as this.

Still, I’ll be coming back for me Chet and Bernie the next time I want to be sure of a smile.

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