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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What I'm Reading: The Bad Book Affair and Dog On It

Recently I finished two good examples of the cozy mystery. The Bad Book Affair by Ian Sansom is the 4th book in his bookmobile mystery series which I have read and discussed previously here.  In this installment our outcast protagonist (a Jewish, Londoner, librarian, running a Northern Ireland bookmobile) is approaching his 30th birthday, getting over being dumped by his long-time girlfriend, and embroiled in the mystery surrounding a missing teenager to whom he recently check-out a banned book. If you like this series, you will enjoy Israel's growth in this installment. Again, click here for more details about the series and for tons of readalikes.

In Dog On It by Spencer Quinn, we are introduced to a new voice in the cozy PI world, Chet, a former police dog and partner to Bernie, a Southern CA, PI. You heard me right, this book is narrated by the dog. Before you start drawing conclusions about this book, I want to point out that it received starred reviews everywhere.  Take this one from Booklist for example:
An exciting new mystery series debuts with this first Chet and Bernie novel. Chet the Jet is a dog who failed K-9 school (cats in the open country played a role in his demise), but now he is a dedicated PI and works with Bernie, owner of the Little Detective Agency. The story is told entirely from Chet’s point of view, which will delight dog-loving mystery readers, but the book is also an excellent PI tale, dogs aside, as Chet and Bernie investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl whose developer dad may be up to no good. Chet may not understand things like maps (he doesn’t need them, as he can sniff his way home), but he is a great sleuth who finds the girl and solves the case. The always upbeat Chet may well be one of the most appealing new detectives on the block, but conscientious, kind, and environmentally aware Bernie is a close runner-up. Excellent and fully fleshed primary and secondary characters, a consistently doggy view of the world, and a sprightly pace  make this a not-to-be-missed debut. Essential for all mystery collections and for dog lovers everywhere.
Dog On It was also a finalist in the mystery category of the RUSSA Reading List Awards. FYI, Spencer Quinn is the pseudonym the accomplished psychological suspense author Peter Abrahams uses to write these mysteries.

As you can probably tell, these novels are much more about the characters and the background details than about the mysteries. Their appeal lies in the reader's interests. For example, I am Jewish, living in a place with very few Jews and am a librarian, all like Israel. I also love to read books about Ireland and books about books, so the Bookmobile Mysteries are a perfect fit for me when I am craving a fast read. The mystery plays no part in my decision to read these books, as it shouldn't. The actual mystery is not very difficult to figure out, but rather, it is simply the reason I get to spend a few hours with these characters I love. After four books, I look forward to each new book, and love that I can read them quickly.

I enjoyed Dog On It because I loved reading a fairly conventional PI mystery from a dog's point of view. I found it compelling and unique, but not being much of a dog person, I don't see myself reading another. It is important to point out that Quinn's book is much more centered on the mystery than Sansom's. Chet and Bernie have returned in a sequel too.

Another interesting side note, although these novels have very different narrators and setting, both mysteries involved a teenage girl being kidnapped, and the kidnapping was directly related to each girl's father. Hmmmm....

Three Words That Describe The Bad Book Affair: fish-out-of-water, humorous, Ireland
Three Words That Describe Dog On It: original, PI, dog narrator

Readalikes: In terms of readalikes for Sansom, I want to remind you to click here and see the other suggestions I have already made for fans of this series. There are a lot to choose from.

Another good cozy but intelligent mystery series is Richard Yancey's Highly Effective Detective series.

For specific fans of dog sleuths with a similar feel to Dog On It, I would suggest The Unscratchables by Cornelius Kane.

Readers who want a mystery with dogs, but narrated by a human should try the very well reviewed Andy Carpenter series by David Rosenfelt beginning with Open and Shut.

And for another uniquely narrated mystery try Amberville by Tim Davys. Here our sleuth is a stuffed animal. Click here to go to the Browsers' Corner and see why Kathy at the BPL enjoyed it.

Finally, for more cozy mysteries click here. Or to find a specific type of sleuth, use the job index on the Stop, You're Killing Me site. (By the way, "pets" is a job.)

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