Sunday, March 12, 2023

Short Tails: Chet & Bernie Short Stories, by Spencer Quinn

Forge Books, ISBN 9781250886910, June 2022

Everyone's favorite canine narrator, Chet, is back with more stories of his adventures with private investigator Bernie Little.

This time we have three short stories, and an excerpt from the most recent novel, Bark to the Future, which was still forthcoming at the time this was published.

"Upper Story" features Chet during the time he was living with Rick Torres, while Bernie is hospitalized after being seriously injured. We get a lovely look at how well-known and generally liked both Chet and Bernie are--even among some of the perps. We also learn that Bernie's condition was more serious than Chet was able to understand at the time. It's sweet and heartwarming.

"The Iggy Papers" is about Chet and Bernie's neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Parsons, and their dog, Chet's friend, Iggy. Mrs. Parsons has been very ill, with cancer, and has now been released from the hospital, for the sad reason that there is nothing left except palliative care. But Mr. Parsons has been approached by a hospital orderly with news of a wonderful new treatment, not known to the doctors. A man named Ricardo created it, and is offering it to suitable people, for... Mrs. Parsons says "free." When Bernie gets Mr. Parsons aside, he admits it's really "at cost," and Bernie becomes very concerned about what little he can learn from Mr. Parsons about that "cost." But nothing is more important than his beloved wife. Bernie and Chet of course have to investigate.

"The Numbers After Two" refers of course to the numbers Chet doesn't understand, and to the numbers involved in the case they stumble into. The story starts off simple and straightforward, with Chet and Bernie taking a ride in the desert, and Chet's nose detecting the out of place scent of bubblegum, which leads them to two lost children. There's a hefty reward, which Chet, as is often the case, takes more seriously than Bernie. Then they meet an enterprising young man at a barely-open bar on the ride home, and this is where it gets less straightforward. Some readers think Bernie doesn't recognize the scam. I think, Bernie does recognize the scam, and wants to expose it. Bernie is always propelled by a sometimes inconvenient  sense of justice, and the readiness with which he takes up cases in which there is either no client, or a client who obviously can't pay shows that. I think he was in this case determined to expose the scam. I liked the story; I may be a minority in this.

I enjoyed this collection quite a lot, overall. How can you not love Chet?

I bought this book.

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