Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"The Dog Who Knew Too Much"

Spencer Quinn lives on Cape Cod with his dog, Audrey.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Dog Who Knew Too Much, the fourth book in the Chet and Bernie Series, and reported the following:
On page 69 of The Dog Who Knew Too Much, Bernie Little of the Little Detective Agency is questioning a trail guide named Turk about a camper named Devin who has gone missing on a hike in the back country. Chet, a mix-breed hundred-plus pounder with one black ear and one white ear - and Bernie’s partner in the Agency, at least in his own mind – is sniffing around the campsite. The questioning of a witness is a detective fiction standard, and this is a detective series, so page 69 is doubly typical. Having said all that, the important thing is how you do it. In this case, Chet narrates the action. But he’s a dog, not a human in a dog suit, like many other members of his species in fiction.

Mystery fiction plots and the solving of crimes share a design, a conjunction which has proved convenient for so many writers in the field. Namely, they both follow a chain of clues – some false, some true, of course - but the point being it’s a logical process, and Chet is incapable of that, certainly in our terms. That makes him an unreliable narrator, and a challenge for the writer. But this particular writer likes challenges, and has a strong interest in unreliable narrators. In this respect, too, page 69 is typical. Here’s a sample:
“I don’t doubt it,” Bernie said. “But see what this does to your theory.”

“What theory?” said Turk, a question I was glad to hear, a little lost myself.

“The theory we’ve been operating on,” Bernie said. “Devin leaves the tent to take a piss and can’t find his way back.”

That was the theory? Theories, whatever they happened to be, I always left to Bernie. But something about this particular theory made me leave our little circle for a moment or two, all the time it took to lift my leg against a nearby rock. When I returned, Turk was saying, “I’m a real heavy sleeper. Is that a crime?”

“Depending on the circumstances,” Bernie said.
Visit Chet the Dog's blog.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue