A Fistful of Collars (Chet and Bernie Series #5)by Spencer Quinn
Hoping to bring some Tinseltown money to the Valley, the mayor lures a movie studio to town to shoot their next production, a big-budget Western in the classic tradition. The star/b>
Everyone’s favorite detective team returns in a new adventure as canine narrator Chet and his human partner P.I. Bernie Little find that Hollywood has gone to the dogs.
Hoping to bring some Tinseltown money to the Valley, the mayor lures a movie studio to town to shoot their next production, a big-budget Western in the classic tradition. The star is none other than ruggedly handsome—and notoriously badly behaved—Thad Perry. When the mayor decides that someone needs to keep an eye on Thad so that he doesn’t get into too much trouble, Bernie and Chet are handpicked for the job. The money is good but something smells fishy, and what should have been a simple matter of babysitting soon gets more complicated—especially when they discover that Thad has a mysterious connection to the Valley that nobody wants to talk about. What kind of secret could Thad have left behind when he went to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune? The only people who might know the answer have a bad habit of turning up dead before they can talk.
As Bernie’s relationship with his longtime girlfriend Suzie goes long-distance, and Chet’s late-night assignations appear to have resulted in an unexpected dividend, it’s all our two sleuths can do to keep Thad and his motley entourage of yes-men, handlers, and hangers-on in their sights. Worst of all, Thad is a self-proclaimed cat person, and his feline friend Brando has taken an instant dislike to Chet.
Like the winning books before it, this fifth book in the series combines a top-notch mystery with genuine humor and a perceptive take on the relationship between human and dog that will stay with you long after the case is solved.
“Between Chet’s insightful and humorous takes on human events, the fast-paced plot, and the wealth of fascinating secondary characters, this is a fine entry in a not-to-be-missed series."
“You would think that by the fifth series title, Quinn might have run out of ideas and quips—he hasn't. Fans of Janet Evanovich or Donna Andrews will enjoy Quinn's humorous and entertaining mysteries.”
“Chet, who continues as narrator in this exciting fifth installment of the series…always gets it right in the end.”
"This delightful buddy tale... will have no problem engaging and entertaining readers just discovering this series." --Shelf Awareness
Praise for the New York Times Bestselling Chet and Bernie Mystery Series
"Nothing short of masterful."
--Los Angeles Times
"Even cat lovers will howl with delight."
"Spencer Quinn speaks two languages--suspense and dog--fluently."
"Pulls the reader along as if on a leash."
“Quinn radiates pure comic genius…You don't have to be a dog lover to enjoy this deliciously addictive series.”
—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
Read an Excerpt
A Fistful of Collars
Heard you drove another one off a cliff,” said Nixon Panero. He spat a thin brown stream of chewing tobacco into an empty paint can, or maybe not that empty. Yellow paint, the yellow of egg yolks, now with a brown swirl in the middle: there’s all kinds of beauty in life.
“You heard wrong,” said Bernie.
Uh-oh. Bernie was looking at Nixon in an irritated sort of way. Wasn’t Nixon our buddy? True, Nixon’s eyes were too close together, even for a human, but he was one of the best mechanics in the Valley according to Bernie, and if Bernie said so, then that was that, and besides, Nixon was also one of our top sources on the street, even though we once put him away for a year or so. Or maybe because of it! Anything’s possible with perps, believe me. We’ve taken down lots, me and my partner, Bernie. That’s what we do at the Little Detective Agency. He’s Bernie Little. I’m Chet, pure and simple.
Sidling on over toward Nixon, just in case backsliding was on his mind? The right move at a moment like this, no question, so I sidled, keeping my eyes on his hands the whole time. That’s where the trouble usually comes from with humans; their feet are too slow to bother worrying about. Nixon’s big hands—fingers all oil-stained and as big as sausages—were hanging by his sides, doing nothing much. I hadn’t had a good sausage in ages, or even a bad one, not that there’s such a thing as a bad sausage, and was trying my hardest to actually remember the last time, when I became aware that Bernie was speaking. When Bernie talks, I listen and listen hard.
“. . . three sticks of dynamite, maybe four—still waiting on forensics,” he said.
“Somebody blew up the Porsche?” said Nixon.
“Kind of different from me driving it off a cliff,” Bernie said, giving Nixon a hard stare. Loved seeing that hard stare of Bernie’s: we’ve made hay with it, let me tell you, although why anyone would want to is a bit of a puzzler, hay being nothing but dried-up grass, of no interest to me at all.
Nixon nodded. “No comparison.” He spat another gob into the paint can; his aim was off the charts.
“Which is why,” Bernie said, “we’re in the market for a new one.”
“A new old one?”
“As old as the last one?” said Nixon. “Or a bit younger, like the one before.”
“Depends,” Bernie said, and he went on with a whole long depends thing which I missed—on account of I’d been listening too hard! How weird was that?
The next thing I knew we were on our way to the yard at the back of Nixon’s Championship Autobody. One of his guys was spray-painting a picture of a curvy woman on a black fender.
“More tit, Ruy,” Nixon said as we went by. “What’s wrong with you?”
Ruy raised his mask. “Sorry, boss.”
We kept going. “Can’t get good help,” Nixon said. “What’s going to happen to this country? We’re competing in the global marketplace.”
“Maybe the big breast thing isn’t as important overseas,” Bernie said.
“Talk sense, Bernie,” Nixon said.
We came to the back of the yard, all fenced in with barbed wire. This was a bad part of town: across the street, some dudes lounged around doing nothing special, never a good sign. Parked by the fence stood two wrecks, one rusted out, the other torched. I’m not great with cars, but I know the shape of Porsches.
“Take your pick,” said Nixon.
“You’re paying me, right?” said Bernie.
“Love your sense of humor,” Nixon said. “I was just mentioning it to the mayor, not two days ago.”
“You’re pals with the mayor?”
“Where do you think he gets the limo serviced?”
“Did you ask him how come he needs to ride around in that damn thing in the first place?”
“Huh?” said Nixon. “He’s the mayor, that’s how come. And anyways I wasn’t talkin’ to him directly. I was talkin’ to his security guy.”
“Yeah. He was the one who actually mentioned your name. But then the mayor slid down the window and we got to talkin’.”
Nixon shrugged. That’s a human move I always watch for. It can mean lots of things. This time? Your call. “Wanted to know if I was named after Nixon. You know—the president.”
“I know,” Bernie said. “And are you?”
“Your parents hated you?”
Nixon gave Bernie a long look, a look I’d seen many times. It meant someone had just realized that Bernie was the smartest human in the room, no news to me. “How’d you know?” Nixon said. “I was the fifth boy. Long about then they were hankerin’ for a girl. But—funny thing—turns out to be a big plus with the mayor.”
“He’s a Tricky Dick fan?” Bernie said.
“A secret fan,” said Nixon. “Just between him and me, what with the election coming up. On account of the name being so—what would you say?”
“Yeah, toxic with most people.”
“You can always change it,” Bernie said.
“Nope,” said Nixon. “It’s part of me.” He took out his dip, bit off another chew. “Maybe someday I’ll invade Cambodia.”
Bernie laughed. “Let’s take a look at these scrap heaps,” he said, and then something else which I missed because of this growling I heard behind me. I turned and there was my old buddy Spike, the scariest junkyard dog I know, and I know plenty, amigo. Spike was part pit bull, part Rottweiler, part unknown, and we got along great: I have lots of unknown in me, too. We’d had a nice tussle or two, me and Spike, including the night Bernie and I took Nixon down, something that maybe rubbed Spike the wrong way. What a barn burner! Although it was a gas station that ended up burning, but just as exciting, maybe more. And as for getting rubbed the wrong way? There’s really no wrong way, in my opinion, only some that are better than others. I’m not fussy.
Spike lumbered up, gave me a bump. Just being friends: Spike was getting on now, that twisted warrior face almost completely white. I gave him a friendly bump back. He rose up and tried to . . . really? What a crazy idea! I shook him off, rose up myself, and tried to do the same crazy thing! What a time we were having! He shook me off and then we were racing around the yard—not really racing, since Spike was no speedster—nipping at each other and barking our heads off. Did we roll around some in an oily patch? Maybe, but I couldn’t be sure, because all of a sudden Spike had one of those—what were they called? welding torches?—yes, welding torches in his mouth, and I had to have it, so—
Spike and I pulled up, coming to a dead stop.
And glancing back, saw Nixon with his hand at his mouth, finger and thumb between his lips, and looking real mad for some reason. Oh, no. He was one of those humans who knew how to make that earsplitting whistle sound. Please, not again.
“What the hell gets into you?” Bernie said.
We were rolling in the van, this beat-up van we use for surveillance but was our only ride at the moment. I lay curled up on the shotgun seat, waiting for the pain in my ears to go away. What gets into me? Was that the question? I thought about it. Sometimes I think better with my eyes closed, so I closed them.
When I awoke, I was back to feeling tip-top, so tip-top I knew I must have done some world-class thinking. I sat up straight, stuck my head out the window. Ah, the Valley. No place like it. The Valley goes on forever in all directions, and those smells! You haven’t smelled till you’ve smelled the Valley. Hot rubber, hot pavement, hot sauce, hot charcoal ash, hot everything! Yes, even hot ice cream. Plus all kinds of grease—deep-fry grease, pizza grease, burrito grease, unwashed human skin grease, and human hair grease—not to mention the grease on my tail at this very moment. Where had that come from? I tried to remember, but not hard. Back to the lovely smells of the Valley, all of them with something in common, namely the dry dusty scent of the desert. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.
Bernie glanced over at me. “Smell anything, big guy?”
He stuck his own head out the window and took a few sniffs.
“I don’t,” he said.
That Bernie! The best human sense of humor in the business, bar none. This had to be one of his little jokes, what with the whole river of smells flowing by and us smack in the middle of it. A nice refreshing breeze sprang up behind me so I turned to check it out—I can probably turn my head a bit farther around than you, no offense—and there was my greasy tail, wagging away. I just love Bernie.
We pulled into a strip mall. We’ve got strip malls out the yingyang in the Valley, just one more thing that makes it great. This particular strip mall was where Suzie Sanchez worked. Suzie’s a reporter for the Valley Tribune, and also Bernie’s girlfriend. If he had to have a girlfriend, then Suzie was a great choice. Compared to Leda, for example, Bernie’s ex-wife and mother of his kid, Charlie, who we miss a lot, seeing as he’s only around some weekends, plus every second Christmas and Thanksgiving, a complicated human arrangement that turned out to mean having even less of Charlie. Thanksgiving’s my favorite holiday and Halloween’s the worst, but no time to get into that now.
We entered the Tribune office, walking past the workstations, all empty, and there was Suzie at the back, fingers going tac-tac-tac on the keyboard, a sound I happened to like. If I had Suzie’s job I’d make that sound twenty-four seven, faster and faster, and with all my paws in action that would be pretty damn rapid. Kind of a strange thought; probably better if it never happens again.
Some humans have the sort of brain where you can feel it at work, like a powerful, pulsing muscle. Suzie was one of those, but at the same time, she had a big warm smile and black eyes that shone like the countertops in our kitchen after Bernie polishes them, which doesn’t happen often. Only when we got real close did she look up.
Then came a surprise. Suzie wasn’t smiling, and her eyes, shining for a moment, lost that sparkle almost right away.
Bernie was smiling, though, that real big one, always so nice to see.
“Hey, Suzie,” he said. “Lookin’ good.”
“Liar,” she said, sweeping back a lock of her dark hair. Hey! What was that? A line on Suzie’s forehead? And another? Those were new, unless my memory was playing tricks on me, something memories can do, Bernie says, although I don’t remember ever experiencing that personally.
“How’d the car thing go?” Suzie said.
“Found a beauty,” Bernie said.
We had? News to me, but I got most of my news from Bernie.
Suzie pressed a button and her screen went dark. “Bernie?” she said. “Got a moment?”
“More than a moment. How about we take you to lunch?”
Suzie bit her lip, another one of those human things I look for. In the nation within the nation, as Bernie sometimes calls me and my kind, we don’t bite our lips, except by accident, when a bit of lip gets caught on a tooth, say. Human lip biting sends a message, a message I’d never gotten from Suzie before.
“I’m slammed today, Bernie,” she said. “Let’s just go out for a little walk.”
“A walk? It’s ninety-seven out there and just getting started.”
“A short walk.”
Bernie’s smile faded and was gone. “Something on your mind?”
Suzie nodded, her eyes not meeting his. I got a sudden urge to chew on something; almost anything would do.
“We can talk here,” Bernie said.
Suzie glanced around. Still just us in the office, but she said, “Outside’s better.”
“Okeydoke,” said Bernie. Okeydoke is a way Bernie has of saying yes, but only when we’re on the job, so what was up with that?
We went outside. There was some confusion at the door, but I ended up going out first. We walked toward a line of skinny, dusty trees that separated this strip mall from the next one. An old picnic table, weathered and lopsided, stood in the shade.
With picnic tables, it usually works like this: humans sit on the benches, facing the table, and I settle down underneath, waiting to get lucky, picnic food usually being pretty messy. But none of that happened now. No food, for one thing. Bernie sort of leaned against the table at a funny angle; Suzie sat at the end of one of the benches, but facing out, legs crossed and then uncrossed; I circled around. What was this? None of us could get comfortable? I started panting a bit.
“I have some news.”
“You’re a newswoman.”
Suzie’s lips turned upward in maybe the quickest, smallest smile I’d ever seen. Then she nodded. “I’ve got a job offer.”
“That’s all?” said Bernie.
“What do you mean?”
“I thought maybe you’d met somebody.”
“Or Dylan was back in the picture.”
“Dylan?” Suzie said. “Oh, Bernie.” She held out her hand. Bernie took it in his.
Dylan McKnight back in the picture? He was Suzie’s boyfriend long ago, a perp who’d done a stretch at Northern State Correctional, and was now where? LA? Hard to keep all the details straight, but the best one—that time I’d driven him up a tree—was still so clear in my mind!
“Let me guess,” said Bernie. “The Trib’s making you managing editor.”
She laughed, one of those tiny laughs that’s just a little jet of air from the nose. “That would never happen,” Suzie says. “It’s another reporting job, but somewhere else.”
“Not the Clarion?” Bernie said.
Suzie shook her head.
“Whew,” said Bernie. “Not sure how I’d handle that. They won’t stop until every square inch of the whole state’s totally developed.”
“It’s the Post, Bernie.”
Bernie has very expressive eyebrows, one of his best features, although they’re all so good, it’s hard to choose. Right now, his eyebrows were sort of trying to meet in the middle, a puzzled look you didn’t often see on Bernie’s face. “The Post?” he said.
“The Washington Post,” said Suzie.
Bernie let go of Suzie’s hand. “Oh,” he said.
Something was up—I could just tell. But what?
“I’m so torn,” Suzie said. “And the irony is it’s all due to that series I wrote about the Big Bear case.”
Whoa. Big Bear Wilderness Camp? The sheriff? Those deputies? That judge? The mama bear? All of them breaking rocks in the hot sun by now, or very soon. Except for that mama bear, of course. Let’s not get started on her.
“Don’t be torn,” Bernie said. “You deserve it.”
“There’s no deserving, Bernie. Not in this business.”
“I wouldn’t know about that,” Bernie said. “But—” He went silent.
“But what?” said Suzie.
Bernie took a deep breath. “Could you turn it down, walk away, and then never think about it again? The what-ifs, what-might-have-beens, all that?”
Suzie went quiet. Then she took a deep breath, too. “I love you,” she said.
Bernie’s lips moved, just the slightest, like he was about to say something, but he did not.
“I’ve been checking flights,” Suzie said. “They’re cheap if you book far enough in advance. Weekends would be way more doable than you’d think.”
“So,” said Bernie, his voice getting kind of thick in a strange way, like there was something in his throat, “it’s all good.”
What was this? I’d been gnawing away at one of the legs of the picnic table? And it didn’t even feel that great? Not bad, exactly, just more like . . . nothing. I stopped.
Meet the Author
Spencer Quinn is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the ongoing Chet and Bernie mystery series, as well as the bestselling Bowser and Birdie series for middle grade readers. He lives on Cape Cod with his wife Diana—and dogs Audrey and Pearl. Keep up with him by visiting SpenceQuinn.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Spencer Quinn, in my opinion, does a great job of thinking like a dog. Chet's adventures are nerve tingling and keeps one reading into the wee hours of the morning. Page turner. Enjoyed it so much!
I received this book in an ARC giveaway from Shelf Awareness. I thought it sounded interesting and I like mysteries. The book was entertaining and the mystery was good, but my favorite part is that the narrator is a dog. If you could hear a dog's thoughts, I think this is exactly what it would sound like. This was my first Chet and Bernie mystery, although this is the fifth in the series. I will be checking out more because I love Chet and now I want a dog. If you like private detective mysteries with humor, check this out.
Fans just need to know....Chet the Jet is back! Readers new to this series are in for a treat. A film crew rolls into town to make a blockbuster action movie. Bernie and Chet are hired to protect it's troubled star,but protect him from whom? When a reporter friend of Bernie's girlfriend is murdered researching an all but forgotten link to the past ,things get personal! Can Bernie and Chet bring down the perp before anyone else is killed? Everybody seems to have secrets to hide and only the Little Detective Agency can dig out the truth. Narrated with a humorous and unique viewpoint by Bernie's dog/partner Chet.
Books featuring animals, particularly dogs and cats, are very popular with many readers. Especially in the mystery field, they appear as major characters, talking among themselves and sometimes to their favorite humans and frequently they sleuth with vim and vigor. Do readers find this entertaining? A lot of us do but there are also many who wouldn’t read one of these books under any circumstances. Usually, it’s because they don’t like the aspect of the animals acting like humans. And then there’s Chet. Chet and Bernie make an unusual pair of detectives and, yes, Chet does contribute to their investigations but not through supernatural or Beatrix Potterish means. Chet is a K-9 school flunkee so he “knows” a bit about detective work but he is, in fact, a dog and his sleuthing generally involves him pursuing normal dog routines, such as following scents. What makes Chet different in the mystery novel arena is (1) his close bond with Bernie and (2) his narration of the story. Seeing and hearing the story through Chet’s eyes and voice is fun, especially when he ruminates on the strange ways of Bernie and other humans and offers his observations on life during the investigations, not to Bernie but to the reader. The enticing things that distract him at any given moment, squirrels and burgers and so forth, add to the charm and his devotion to Bernie (and Bernie’s devotion to Chet) is completely natural. Is this a gripping, intellectual thriller? No, not at all, but the puzzle and the resultant inquiries are engaging. Add in the pleasures of Chet’s and Bernie’s partnership and the reader will enjoy a few hours of pure entertainment with more than the occasional smile. I’ve had fun with every Chet and Bernie Mystery so far and A Fistful of Collars is another good one. Oh, and you don’t want to miss Brando the cat. (Psst. Check out Quinn‘s new short story, A Cat Was Involved, to finally learn how Chet failed K-9 school.)
I've read 5 of these and have the 6th loaded. Also have "Iggy" loaded. My next read. Not exactly a page turner but does keep your interest going. I love how Quinn tries to interpret everything through a dog's eyes. Keep 'em coming Quinn!!
Another fun mystery told in the voice of Chet. I never tire of hearing the story in his voice. It is comical and yet you understand what is going on from the conversations around them as well as Chet's perceptions. I did have a hard time with the language in it though. I wish it was cleaner in language.
delightful tale from a dog's perspective. Chet and Bernie are a great team.
Spencer Quinn has once again made me smile! I thoroughly enjoy this series and recommend it to any dog lover. The plots certainly hold my interest and are well written. The fact that they are told from the dogs point of view is quite entertaining. Fun read...engaging dog...great characters...good plots...'nuff said.
Very enjoyable read. I love this series and this one didn't let me down.
Another great "tail" from Chet the Jet and Bernie. Have read all the books in this series and can't wait until the next one is available. Love the way Spencer Quinn makes Chet almost human in his thinking. Being a dog owner it makes me wonder what my little guy is thinking and why he acts like he does at times. Keep them coming Spencer!
This is the second book I've read of this series (not in order) that I've read and thoroughly enjoy the two books. First time I've read a story from a dog's perspective, and greatly enjoy how intelligently the dog's view is intertwined with the human viewpoint.
I LOVE "Chet and Bernie" mysteries. The relationship between dog and man is so loving and comical. I'd love to see this made into a movie.
I get such a kick out of Quinn's idea of the Nation within a Nation dogs-eye view of the world. This book seems to have even more of it (I'll have to reread #1 and see). Ya gotta love Chet! I do wish Bernie would provide for him a bit better but Chet has no complaints. And I am happier when Chet doesn't get into so much trouble, or get hurt. I've pre-ordered #6. I'm addicted! (And don't miss the 99 cent short stories either; lots of info in them.)
I tell all my dog lovers friends: start with "Dog on it", and you will not be able to stop! I read them all, and just pre-ordered the 6th book. The best dog stories ever told! My sincere gratitude to Mr. Spencer Quinn!