Thereby Hangs a Tail: A Chet and Bernie Mystery

By Spencer Quinn
Publisher:Atria, (1/5/2010)

Average Rating:
Mildly Unleashable
2.00 out of 5 (1 Clubie's ratings)

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In the irresistible second Chet and Bernie mystery, Chet gets a glimpse of the show dog world turned deadly.

What first seems like a walk in the park to wise and lovable canine narrator Chet and his human companion Bernie—to investigate threats made against a pretty, pampered show dog—turns into a serious case when Princess and her owner are abducted. To make matters worse, Bernie's on-again, off-again girlfriend, reporter Susie Sanchez, disappears too. When Chet is separated from Bernie, he's on his own to put the pieces together, find his way home, and save the day. Spencer Quinn's "brilliantly original" (Richmond Times-Dispatch) and "masterful" (Los Angeles Times) new series combines genuine suspense and intrigue with humor and insight for a tail-wagging good time readers won't soon forget.

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CagneyC's thoughts on "Thereby Hangs a Tail: A Chet and Bernie Mystery"
updated on:4/19/2010

This book was fairly enjoyable to me, but not quite unleashable; Bernie and Chet are likeable enough, and there is some excitement here, but I think that continuity is lacking and Chet's misunderstandings of expressions and short term memory get quite old, even though he is a dog.

Mildly Unleashable

"Thereby Hangs a Tail: A Chet and Bernie Mystery"
By Spencer Quinn

Average Rating:
Mildly Unleashable
2.00 out of 5 (1 Clubie's ratings)

The Gentleman
The Gentleman
By Forrest Leo

 General reading guide discussion questions to be used with ANY book your book club or reading group might be discussing.
1. Bernie Little is a quirky guy. He likes to wear Hawaiian shirts and he has a fondness for pictures of waterfalls. What else do we learn about Bernie in the opening pages, and what does Chet's unique perspective tell us about Bernie and the Little Detective Agency?

2. Bernie's initial meeting with Adelina Borghese doesn't go so well. What do we learn about the Countess from Chet's description? Does your opinion of her change as Bernie begins to learn more about her? 

3. In chapter five, Chet and Bernie first meet Princess. What are Chet's initial impressions of the pampered pooch? Do his opinion of her and his actions toward her change over the course of the story?

4. Bernie has a strained relationship with money. He comments, "There's all this money flowing around, Chet, rivers and rivers of money. How to tap into it, that's the problem" (p. 54). What does Bernie do in order to take advantage of this situation? Does he act wisely? Do Bernie's ideas about money reflect a broader pattern in society?

5. Nancy Malone, aka "Nance," is Princess's trainer and a crucial eyewitness to the kidnapping of her boss, Adelina, and Princess. How much credibility does Bernie initially give to Nance? Why do Chet and Bernie become more suspicious of her as time goes on?

6. While Chet is separated from Bernie, he and Princess meet up with a pair of "hippies," as Chet calls them. The two men both help and harm Chet. How does their behavior reflect larger truths about some humans, especially when compared to dogs?

7. Bernie muses about "red herrings." Chet helpfully comments, "I'm not a seafood fan" (p. 177). In mystery novels, what is a red herring? And how do they impede Bernie and Chet's investigation here?

8. Chet loyally states that he is not as smart as Bernie. But Chet does have certain natural talents as a dog, most notably his sense of smell and hearing. Discuss how Chet's talents come in handy during several crucial moments in the book.

9. Chet doesn't understand the trouble between Bernie and Susie. At the end of the book, he is still confused as to what is going on between the two of them. What has been the problem between these two humans, and why is it so hard for Chet to understand?

10. Chet is a dog of many loves and a few noted dislikes. There are several humorous moments in the story where Chet loses his train of thought, distracted by a tasty morsel or an enticing scent. What are some of your favorite moments of Chet's "dog-ness"? 

11. Chet and Bernie are a unique team and are intensely loyal to each other. What are some of the key scenes in the book that display just how incredible their partnership is? 

12. One of the most creative aspects of Thereby Hangs a Tail is Spencer Quinn's ability to get inside the head of Chet, his canine narrator. Do you think he does a good job of capturing the quirks and the mysterious ways of dogs? If you have a dog, do you think he or she would sound like Chet? If not, what would they say?

Tips to Enhance Your Book Club

1. Chet has become one of the more memorable dogs in literature. Bring in other books featuring dogs and share them with your book club. Discuss who are your favorite canine characters and why. 

2. Bernie is a lover of music, as is Chet. Two of their favorite musicians are Elmore James and Roy Eldridge. Go to the website to explore their music and others like them.

3. Visit Chet's blog, to hear more from Chet.

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Spencer Quinn lives on Cape Cod with his dog, Audrey.  He is currently working on the next Chet and Bernie novel. 

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