Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Chet and Bernie Alone: A Fistful of Collars

(Reflection on A FISTFUL OF COLLARS, by Spencer Quinn. Atria Books, 2012.)

Bernie Little is a private eye, veteran, ex-cop, and dog owner; Chet is his partner, his good-natured and highly distractable chronicler, and his German shepherd.  They are the central figures in A Fistful of Collars, latest in the crime series by Spencer Quinn -- pseudonym for an author successful in another genre (but that's all I know) -- and, while the twists and turns of plot are interesting, it's still the company of the narrator that makes this book such a pleasure.

The plot here involves a macho Hollywood star named Thad Perry, filming a Western outside of Hollywood.  Bernie is hired by the Mayor to keep an eye on the notoriously irresponsible star.  Characters from earlier novels make memorable appearances, here:  Suzy the reporter, Leda the ex, and Charley the young son -- who "dies"  on camera for the corny Western in a scene that was, for me, most memorable in the novel.  When Bernie has to dogsit for an ailing neighbor, we finally get to meet Chet's best dog pal Iggy, who has always been seen through a pane of glass up to now.    

In this novel, though, the supporting cast seems more peripheral.  Breaking a pattern set in earlier installments, Quinn keeps focused on the central plot, and he keeps the two guys together.  It feels good.

Quinn manages to give us humor and pathos at the same time. Here's Chet's commentary about Bernie's reaction when Suzy moves away:
I moved closer to Bernie.  He gave me a nice pat. His gaze was still on the empty intersection down the street. I let that slip from my mind and just concentrated on the pat.  You can feel things in the hand of humans, things that are happening deep inside them. I felt what was happening inside Bernie.

The only unpleasant thing about the novel is that Quinn early on foreshadows a confrontation between Chet and a scary, much larger, canine.  I had this feeling of dread as I started each new chapter!  I'll just say, I finished the novel feeling great.  That's the great benefit from seeing the world through Chet's eyes.   

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