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Music, Sound, the Chet and Bernie Playlist, and A Farewell to Arfs by Spencer Quinn

A Farewell to ArfsSpencer Quinn’s A Farewell to Arfs ups the ante in the action-packed and witty New York Times and USA Today bestselling series that Stephen King calls “without a doubt the most original mystery series currently available.”

Chet the dog, “the most lovable narrator in all of crime fiction” (Boston Globe) and his human partner PI Bernie Little are on to a new case, and this time they’re entangled in a web of crime unlike anything they’ve ever seen before.

Their elderly next door neighbor, Mr. Parsons, thought he was doing the right thing by loaning his ne’er do well son, Billy, some money to help get himself settled. But soon, Mr. Parsons discovers that his entire life savings is gone. A run-of-the-mill scam? Bernie isn’t so sure that the case is that simple, but it’s Chet who senses what they’re really up against.

Only Billy knows the truth, but he’s disappeared. Can Chet and Bernie track him down before it’s too late? Someone else is also in the hunt, an enemy with a mysterious, cutting-edge power who will test Chet and Bernie to their limit—or maybe beyond. Even poker, not the kind of game they’re good at, plays a role.

Read onwards to see the incredible playlist you can jam out to while reading Spencer Quinn’s upcoming novel, A Farewell to Arfs!


By Spencer Quinn (Peter Abrahams):

Music, Sound, the Chet and Bernie Playlist, and A Farewell to Arfs

We seem to be in an era of scams—in our personal lives and perhaps in other societal regions. When it comes to personal scams there’s a new development, namely the use of artificial intelligence to replicate the voice of, say, a relative in trouble. AI is already good at this and of course getting better all the time. Okay. That’s by way of background. The Chet and Bernie mystery series is narrated by Chet, partner of Bernie, the private eye. Chet’s a dog. But not a talking dog! He’s as purely canine as I can make him. That makes him an unreliable narrator in some ways—alright, many—but a super-reliable narrator in others. One of those super-reliable categories is sound. Anyone who knows dogs knows they hear like we do not, both better and more richly. Therefore sound—and smell, of course—play a much bigger role in the Chet and Bernie series than they do in most other fiction. Which is part of the fun!

But forget fun. One day I was out on my bike ride, my mind wandering aimlessly—maybe its go-to state—when I suddenly thought: would Chet be fooled by an AI replicated voice? AI is built on human input, oceans of it. Chet swims in different waters. Aha, I thought to myself. And that was the genesis of A Farewell to Arfs, the new Chet and Bernie novel in a series designed—with no help from AI—to be read in any order.

If there was a totem pole of human sound, music would be at the top, in my opinion. Bernie is a music lover, given to singing—usually when he and Chet are alone, although also sometimes at parties when he’s had perhaps one too many. Three songs are mentioned in A Farewell to Arfs: “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” by Rev. Gary Davis; “God Walks These Dark Hills” by Iris Dement; and “If You Were Mine” by Billie Holiday. That last one is Chet’s favorite on account of Roy Eldridge’s dazzling trumpet solo that closes it out, the trumpet doing special things to Chet’s ears. Here’s a little snippet about that from A Farewell to Arfs. Chet and Bernie are watching Bernie’s son Charlie’s soccer practice. Charlie’s friend Esmé is also on the team. Malachi is her dad and he and Bernie have met before—at a Christmas party of which Bernie has only vague memories.

“You played Roy Eldridge’s trumpet solo from ‘If You Were Mine’?” Bernie said.

“At your request,” Malachi said. “And you handled Billie Holiday’s vocal.”

“Good grief,” said Bernie, meaning he must have forgotten how well he’d done. “But you played great, if I remember.”

“Not disgraceful,” Malachi said. “For an amateur. I’ve got no illusions about that. But I’ve always loved music. Not to sound too pompous—one of my failings, recently pointed out by Esmé but my wife agreed immediately—it’s my belief that music reveals the beauty of math even to folks who hate it.”

Bernie thought that over. “Esmé was saying something about this. You’re a mathematician?”

“Applied,” said Malachi, losing me completely, although I was already there.

Speaking of music, a Chet and Bernie fan named Mike Farley has compiled a Spotify playlist composed mostly of songs from the series. I’m so grateful for that, and for the high level of engagement readers seem to have with C&B. Here’s Mike’s Spotify list, the annotations all his:

Chet and Bernie Tribute – MikeF126, V1.

  1. If You Were Mine,” Billie Holiday. Roy Eldridge on trumpet
  2. Rock the Casbah”– Remastered.” The Clash
  3. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” – Single [short] Version,” Iron Butterfly
  4. Death Don’t Have No Mercy’” Rev. Gary Davis
  5. The Sky Is Crying,” Elmore James
  6. Sway-2009 Mix,” The Rolling Stones
  7. It Hurts Me Too,” Elmore James, Chief Records version
  8. Lonesome 77203,” Billy Don Burns
  9. Done Somebody Wrong,” Elmore James
  10. Can’t Cash My Checks.” Jamey Johnson
  11. Sea of Heartbreak,” Jimmy Buffet/George Strait version
  12. Metal Firecracker,” Lucinda Williams
  13. Chain of Fools,” Aretha Franklin
  14. Song for Chet,” Peter Abrahams, Mitch Watkins, Gene Elders, et al
  15. Surfin’ USA,” The Beach Boys
  16. Pontiac Blues – Live.” Sonny Boy Williamson and The Yardbirds

Enjoy!


Click below to pre-order your copy of A Farewell to Arfs, available August 6th, 2024!

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Excerpt Reveal: A Farewell to Arfs by Spencer Quinn

A Farewell to ArfsSpencer Quinn’s A Farewell to Arfs is a return to the adventurous New York Times and USA Today bestselling series that Stephen King calls “without a doubt the most original mystery series currently available.”

Chet the dog, “the most lovable narrator in all of crime fiction” (Boston Globe) and his human partner PI Bernie Little are back again, and this time they’re entangled in a web of crime unlike anything they’ve ever seen before.

Their next door neighbor, Mr. Parsons, thought he was doing the right thing by loaning his ne’er do well son, Billy, some money to help get himself settled. But days later, Mr. Parsons has discovered that his entire life savings is gone. Valley PD is certain this is an impersonation scam, but Bernie isn’t so sure.

With Mrs. Parsons in the hospital and Billy nowhere to be found, it’s up to Chet and Bernie to track Billy down and get to the bottom of things—before it’s too late.

A Farewell to Arfs will be available on August 6th, 2024. Please enjoy the following excerpt!


CHAPTER ONE

Who wouldn’t love my job? You see new things every day! Here, for example, we had a perp clinging to a branch high up in a cottonwood tree. That wasn’t the new part. Please don’t get ahead of me—although that’s unlikely to happen, your foot speed and mine being . . . very different, let’s leave it at that with no hurt feelings.

Where were we? Perp in a cottonwood tree, nothing new? Right. Nothing new, not even the little detail of how this particular perp, namely Donnie the Docent Donnegan, was styling his shirt and tie with pajama bottoms. Seen that look once, seen it a . . . well, many times, just how many I couldn’t tell you since I don’t go past two. Not quite true. I have gotten past two the odd time, all the way to whatever comes next, but not today. No biggie. Two’s enough. We’re the proof, me and Bernie. Together we’re the Little Detective Agency, the most successful detective agency in the whole Valley, except for the finances part. Bernie’s last name is Little. I’m Chet, pure and simple.

We stood side by side, as we often do, and gazed up at Donnie. “Donnie?” Bernie said. “No wild ideas.”

Donnie said something that sounded annoyed, the exact words hard to understand, most likely on account of the thick gold coin, called a doubloon unless I was missing something, that he was holding between his teeth. Donnie the Docent, an old pal, was an art lover with an MO that was all about museums. On this particular occasion our client was Katherine Cornwall who runs the Sonoran Museum of Art, also an old pal but not a perp, who we met way back on a complicated case of which I remembered nothing except that it ended well, perhaps only slightly marred by an incident in the gift shop involving something that hadn’t turned out to be an actual chewy, strictly speaking. Katherine Cornwall was a woman of the gray-haired no-nonsense type. They don’t miss much. You have to keep that in mind, which can turn out to be on the iffy side.

I should mention first that the gold coin between the teeth was also not the new part of this little scene, and second that this was the time of year when the cottonwoods are all fluffy white and give off a wonderful smell, a sort of combo of thick damp paper, sweet syrup, and fresh laundry. There’s really nothing like rolling around in a pile a fresh laundry, possibly a subject for later. Also our cottonwood, standing on the bank of an arroyo, wasn’t the only cottonwood in the picture. On the other side of the arroyo rose a second cottonwood, just as big and fresh laundryish or maybe even more so. In between, down in the arroyo, we had flowing water, blue and rising almost to the tops of the banks. That was the new part! Water! I’d seen water in some of our arroyos before but only in tiny puddles, drying up fast under the sun. I’m a good swimmer, in case you were wondering. There are many ways of swimming, but I’m partial to the dog paddle, probably goes without mentioning.

Meanwhile, high above, Donnie seemed to be inching his way toward the end of the branch, which hung over the arroyo. As did, by the way, a big branch on the far side cottonwood, the two branches almost touching. Below the far side cottonwood sat Donnie’s ATV, engine running. How exactly we’d gotten to this point wasn’t clear to me, even while it was happening, and was less clear now.

“Donnie?” Bernie said. “It’s a fantasy.”

Donnie said nothing, just kept inching along the branch, the gold coin glinting in the sunshine. His eyes were glinting, too, glinting with a look I’d often seen before, the look in the eyes of a perp in the grip of a sudden and fabulous idea. There’s no stopping them after that.

“Donnie! Middle-aged, knock-kneed, potbellied? Is that the acrobat look?”

Donnie glanced down, shot Bernie a nasty glance. Then— and this is hard to describe—he coiled his body in a writhing way and launched himself into the air, his hands grasping at the branch of the other cottonwood. Wow! He came oh so close. I couldn’t help but admire Donnie as he went pinwheeling down and down, landing in the arroyo with a big splash and vanishing beneath the surface. Also showing no sign of coming back up.

Bernie ran toward the water, but of course I was way ahead of him. I dove down, spotted Donnie at the bottom, flailing in slow motion, grabbed him by the pant leg and hauled him up out of there. Cottonwoody white fluffy things came whirligigging down and drifted away on the current. Case closed.

***

It turned out Donnie didn’t know how to swim, so you could say we’d saved his life, but he forgot to say thanks. Maybe that had something to do with the fact that he’d gotten the gold coin stuck in his throat, although he’d soon swallowed it, but after X-rays at the hospital had established to Katherine Cornwall’s satisfaction that it was still inside him but would appear in a day or two, she cut us our check—a woman of the no-nonsense type, as perhaps I didn’t stress enough already.

“Very generous, Katherine.” Bernie said. “It’s way too much.”

“I’ll be the judge of that,” Katherine said. I found myself in a very strange place, namely not on Bernie’s side. “There’s evidence that this particular doubloon was once in Coronado’s personal possession.”

Bernie’s eyebrows—the best you’ll ever see and there’s no missing them—have a language of their own. Now they rose in a way that said so much even if I couldn’t tell you what, and he tucked the check in his pocket, unfortunately the chest pocket of his Hawaiian shirt. The Hawaiian shirt, with the tiny drink umbrella pattern, was not the problem, in fact was one of my favorites. The chest pocket was my problem. The check belonged in the front pocket of his pants, the front pocket with the zipper. I pressed my head against that pocket, sending a message. Bernie had great balance and didn’t even stumble, hardly at all.

“He’s so affectionate for such a formidable looking fellow,” Katherine said.

“True,” said Bernie, dusting himself off, “but this is more about chow time.”

Chow time? It had nothing to do with chow time. But then, what do you know? It was about chow time! Chow time and nothing but! When had I last eaten? I was too hungry to even think about it. I eased Bernie toward the Beast. That’s our ride, a Porsche in a long line of Porsches, all old and gone now, one or two actually up in smoke. The Beast—painted in black and white stripes in a rippling pattern, like a squad car showing off its muscles—was the oldest of all. We roared out of the museum parking lot, Bernie behind the wheel, me sitting tall in the shotgun seat, our usual set up, although once down in Mexico we’d ended up having to pull a switcheroo. This is a fun business, in case that’s not clear by now.

***

Back at our place on Mesquite Road—best street in the Valley although far from the fanciest, which suits us just fine—we ate a whole lot in that quick and quiet businesslike way of two hombres after a long working day, and then went out back to the patio for drinks, beer for Bernie and water for me. He stretched out, his feet on a footstool, the check poking annoyingly from his chest pocket, like it was playing games with me. I was working on a plan for that check when Bernie said, “All those atmospheric river storms off the Pacific turned out to be good luck for Donnie.” A complete puzzler. I waited for some sort of explanation but none came. Instead, without getting up, Bernie reached out and turned the tap at the base of the swan fountain. Then came a little sputter sputter, followed by a small bright stream flowing from the swan’s mouth and splashing down into the dry pool with a lovely cooling sound. For me and my kind—the nation within the nation, as Bernie calls us—sounds can be cooling. Same for you? I won’t even guess, the subject of human hearing turning out to be complicated but disappointing in the end. The fountain itself—and how nice to have it finally back on! Had Bernie forgotten to worry about the aquifer?—was all that Leda, Bernie’s ex, left behind. Now she lived in High Chaparral Estates with her new husband Malcolm who had long toes and money to burn, although he wasn’t the money burning type. Money burners in my experience—lighting up a smoke with a C-note, for example—never had much of it except for a sudden and nice little bundle, here and gone. But forget all that. I’ve left out the most important detail, namely Charlie, Bernie and Leda’s kid, now living with Leda and Malcolm except for some weekends and every second Christmas and Thanksgiving, or maybe the other way around. At first, we’d left the mattress in his bedroom stripped bare, but now it’s made up and Bernie even folds down one of the top corners so it’s all set for getting into. I even sometimes get into it myself, who knows why.

On the other side of the patio fence that separates our place from Mr. and Mrs. Parsons next door, Iggy started barking. This is the time of year when old timers like the Parsonses keep their windows open, but there’s no missing Iggy’s bark, even if he’s deep inside a trash truck, just to pick one instance out of many. A tiny guy but a mighty yip-yip-yipper. With an amazingly long and floppy tongue, by the way.

“Iggy,” said Mr. Parsons, in his scratchy old voice. “Easy there. I can’t hear.”

Easy there does not work with Iggy. He dialed it up a notch.

“Billy?” Mr. Parsons said, also dialing it up, although only the scratchy part got louder. “Say again?”

Billy? We knew Billy, me and Bernie. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Parsons, a grown up son, unlike Charlie, and also unlike Charlie in other ways. An actual perp? I wasn’t sure about that, but he’d been involved in the stolen saguaro case, one of our worst. Bernie had ended up in the hospital, the most terrible thing that had ever happened to me. I glanced over to make sure he was all right, and there he was, eyes closed, chest rising and falling in a slow rhythm, the best chest rising and falling rhythm I’d ever seen, and a bit more of the check peeking out from his pocket. My Bernie!

“Slow down a little, please, Billy,” Mr. Parsons said. “I don’t understand.”

Was Mr. Parsons on the phone? When folks are on the phone I can often hear the voice of who they’re talking to, but not this time, not with Iggy. But I could see Billy in my mind: shoulder-length fair hair, vague sort of eyes, that snakehead tattoo on his cheek. Plus, he had lots of ink on his arms as well. You see that arm ink on dudes that had done time although usually their arms are bulkier than Billy’s. Northern State Correctional, if I remembered right, but not for the saguaro case. On the saguaro case we’d cut him a break and he’d split for Matamoros. Now you know all I know about Billy Parsons and possibly more.

“Refund?” Mr. Parsons said. That was followed by a long silence, if we’re leaving Iggy out of it, and then Mr. Parsons said, “Payroll? But I—”

After that came another long silence. I could feel Mr. Parsons listening very hard, could even sort of see him holding the phone real tight. Mr. Parsons was a nice old guy.

“Two thousand?” he said at last. “Two thousand even? Well, Billy, I—I don’t see why not. How do you want me to . . . yes, I’ve got a pencil. Hang on. Just need to . . . Okay. Shoot.” Then more silence, again except for Iggy. Yip yip yip, yip yip yip. He doesn’t even stop to breathe. You have to admire Iggy in some ways.

“Yup,” said Mr. Parsons. “Got it. Love you, son. Bye.”

***

“You know what we should do first thing?” Bernie said the next morning at breakfast. “Zip on down to the bank and make a deposit.” He waved the check in the air. Had a day ever gotten off to a better start? I was already at the door. Bernie laughed. “Got to shave first.” We went into the bathroom. Bernie lathered up and shaved his beautiful face. I helped by pacing back and forth. You might say, beautiful face? Hadn’t that nose been broken once or twice? Maybe, and Bernie had plans to get it fixed, but only after he was sure there won’t be more dust ups in his life. Which I hope is never. No dust ups would mean no more chances to see that sweet, sweet uppercut of his. It lands on perp chins with just a click, like it’s nothing at all, but then their eyes roll up. There’s all kinds of beauty. That’s one of my core beliefs.

We hurried out the door, me first, which is our system for going in and out of doors. It’s actually my door system with everyone and even if they don’t know at first they soon do. Humans are great at learning things, or certainly some things, a big subject I’d go into it now if it wasn’t for the fact that over at the Parsonses’ house a kind of a show got going.

All the world’s a stage, Bernie says, just one more example of his brilliance. First out of the door was Iggy in full flight, tongue hanging out the side of his mouth. That part didn’t last long, what with Iggy being on the leash. He came to a sudden stop in midair, his stubby legs still sprinting in a full speed blur. Then came the walker and finally Mr. Parsons, staggering a bit, trying to grip the leash and the walker with one hand and knot his tie with the other. Leash, tie, walker, Iggy, Mr. Parsons: for a moment they all seemed like parts to a single contraption, a contraption that was starting to tilt in a way that didn’t look promising. But by that time we were there, Bernie steadying Mr. Parsons and me grabbing Iggy by the scruff of the neck. Iggy didn’t like that. His eyes got wild and he tried to do who knows what to me with one of his tiny paws. You had to love Iggy and I do.

“You all right, Daniel?” Bernie said.

“Yes, thank you, Bernie. Well, no actually.”

“How about we go inside and sit down?”

“No time for that,” Mr. Parsons said. “I have to go to the bank.” “With Iggy?”

Mr. Parsons licked his lips, lips that were cracked and dry, and so was his tongue. “That wasn’t the original plan.”

“Then should we get the little fella back inside?”

“I’d appreciate that, Bernie.”

“Chet?” Bernie made a little motion with his chin. It’s not only his eyebrows that talk. The chin can jump in too, from time to time. There’s no one like Bernie, in case you didn’t know that already. I trotted into the house, dumped Iggy in the kitchen, and trotted back out. Bernie closed the door.

“Is Edna inside?” he said.

“Back in the hospital, I’m afraid.” Mr. Parsons fished in his pockets. “Oh, dear.”

“What’s wrong?” Bernie said.

“I don’t seem to have my car keys.”

“What bank do you use?”

“Valley Trust, the Rio Seco branch.”

“We’ll drive you,” Bernie said.

“Very nice of you, but—”

“Not a problem. We were actually headed there—it’s our bank, too.”

We got into the Beast. Normally the shotgun seat is mine, but in this case, I didn’t mind letting Mr. Parsons have it while I squeezed onto the little shelf in back. Well, I did mind, but I did it anyway. I can do things I don’t want to but not often, so please don’t ask.

We rode in silence for a while, Mr. Parsons breathing in shallow little breaths, his twisted fingers busy with the tie, but having trouble. Finally, he gave up and lowered his hands to his lap.

“Where’s our money?” he said.


Click below to pre-order your copy of A Farewell to Arfs, available August 6th, 2024!

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Forge Books That Will Get You In the Holiday Spirit!

‘Tis the season for some holiday reading! Whether you’re on the hunt for a timely book to gift someone this holiday season or you’re in the mood to read something perfectly fit for the most wonderful time of the year, Forge is here to provide festive reads that are sure to deck your halls! We’re making a list (and checking it twice), none are naughty and all are nice! Read below to see what books to either read and/or gift this year to help you get in the holiday spirt!


A Dog’s Perfect Christmas and The Dogs of Christmas by W. Bruce Cameron

A Dog's Perfect Christmas

The Dogs of Christmas
Is there anything more precious than sweet puppies at Christmas? Two perfect gifts, A Dog’s Perfect Christmas and The Dogs of Christmas are charming and heartwarming holiday tales that explores the power of love, trust, and what can happen when family members open their hearts to new possibilities. From W. Bruce Cameron, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Dog’s Purpose!

Up on the Woof Top and It’s a Wonderful Woof by Spencer Quinn

Up on the Woof Top
It's a Wonderful Woof

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chet the dog, “the most lovable narrator in all of crime fiction” (Boston Globe) and his human partner Bernie Little find themselves in the midst of two thrilling holiday adventures! A wonderful bundle of books to either give as a gift this year, or to snuggle up with while you read by the light of the Christmas tree.

A Bathroom Book for People Not Pooping or Peeing But Using the Bathroom as an Escape by Joe Pera; illustrated by Joe Bennett

A Bathroom Book for People Not Pooping or Peeing but Using the Bathroom as an Escape
Okay, so we know this isn’t a conventional holiday-themed pick, but hear us out: how many times have you sat at the holiday dinner table and silently wished for an escape from whatever awkward conversation your dear old aunt was trying to rope you into? That’s why the Bathroom Book is perfect for this time of year! A USA Today bestseller, the cozy comedy of Joe Pera meets the darkly playful illustrations of Joe Bennett in A Bathroom Book for People Not Pooping or Peeing But Using the Bathroom as an Escape, a funny, warm, and sincere guide to regaining calm and confidence when you’re hiding in the bathroom.

An Irish Country Christmas by Patrick Taylor

An Irish Country Christmas
Just in time for the holidays, An Irish Country Christmas from beloved author Patrick Taylor presents a new look for the beloved New York TimesUSA Today, and Globe and Mail bestselling series! This book has all the cozy vibes and is absolutely perfect for curling up with under a warm blanket this winter!

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Excerpt Reveal: Up on the Woof Top by Spencer Quinn

Up on the Woof TopChet the dog, “the most lovable narrator in all of crime fiction” (Boston Globe) and his human partner Bernie Little find themselves high in the mountains this holiday season to help Dame Ariadne Carlisle, a renowned author of bestselling Christmas mysteries, find Rudy, her lead reindeer and good luck charm, who has gone missing.

At Kringle Ranch, Dame Ariadne’s expansive mountain spread, Chet discovers that he is not fond of reindeer. But the case turns out to be about much more than reindeer after Dame Ariadne’s personal assistant takes a long fall into Devil’s Purse, a deep mountain gorge. When our duo discovers that someone very close to Dame Ariadne was murdered in that same spot decades earlier, they start looking into that long ago unsolved crime.

But as they reach into the past, the past is also reaching out for them. Can they unlock the secrets of Dame Ariadne’s life before they too end up at the bottom of the gorge? Is Rudy somehow the key?

Up on the Woof Top will be available on October 17th, 2023. Please enjoy the following excerpt!


CHAPTER ONE

Uh-oh.

Most perps turn out to be reasonable in the end. They know, for example, the moment a case is closed, namely when I grab them by the pant leg. Pant leg grabbing is one of my specialties at the Little Detective Agency, Little on account of that’s my partner Bernie’s last name. Do I even have a last name? I’ve never heard it, but if there’s a change, I’ll let you know. Till then just think of me as Chet, pure and simple.

Maybe you’re wondering, but Chet, what about the unreasonable perps? I hope so, because that was exactly where I was headed with that uh-oh. Right now, we had a couple of unreasonable perps on our hands, although I myself have no hands, don’t need hands, and wouldn’t even know what to do with them. These unreasonable perps were the Burger boys, two brothers who’d hijacked a beer truck, now wrecked at the bottom of a box canyon they’d sped into in the hope of getting away from us—getting away in a wobbly truck from me and Bernie tailing them in the Beast, our brand-new, very old Porsche, can you imagine? A truck, by the way, that actually must have been hauling something unbeerlike, so unmistakably peanut oil from the aroma now hanging in the still air.

“What’s that stink?” said a Burger brother, the one Bernie called Hammy. The Burger brothers did not look alike. Hammy was short and skinny with big round eyes. The other one, Cheesy, I believe, was huge with little slit eyes.

“I don’t smell nothin’,” Cheesy said. “And who cares? This is our chance, you moron.”

Cheesy didn’t smell the peanut oil? How astonishing was that? Every time you think you’ve hit bottom when it comes to what the human nose can’t do they take it down another notch. There was nothing else to smell besides peanut oil, even for me who smells everything! I was about to feel sorry for them, or at least for Cheesy, when Hammy said, “Chance for what?”

“For hightailin’ it—what else?” Cheesy said. “He’ll be back any minute.”

Possibly I should have mentioned that I was alone with Hammy and Cheesy, Bernie having climbed up to higher ground where maybe his phone would work and he could call into Valley PD. Was there room in the Beast for me, Bernie, Hammy, and Cheesy? Maybe just for me, Bernie, and Hammy, but we couldn’t leave Cheesy out here in the desert all by his lonesome, his wrists cuffed in the pretty red, white, and blue plastic cuffs we used, just one of those touches that makes the Little Detective Agency what it is. The point I’m making is that Valley PD needed to come out here with the paddy wagon. I peered at the trail Bernie had followed up the canyon wall, a trail that took a sharp turn high up there, vanishing behind a jumble of red rocks, and didn’t see him. But Hammy and Cheesy hightailing it, Bernie or no Bernie, was off the table. Hadn’t the Burger brothers been grabbed by the pant leg, first Cheesy and then Hammy? The case was closed.

But Hammy and Cheesy weren’t getting it. They’d gone from sitting peacefully on the ground to a sort of grunting struggle to stand, not so easy with their hands behind their backs. Cheesy, despite being so enormous, was the first one up, a bit of a surprise to me. Then came a bigger surprise. He leaned over Hammy, chomped down on the collar of Hammy’s shirt, and hoisted him up. Wow! A first in terms of what the human mouth is capable of, and I’ve been in the business for a long time.

“Let’s go,” Cheesy said.

“What about the dog?” said Hammy.

“No problem. If it comes close give it the boot, good and hard.”

Excuse me?

Not long after that, Hammy and Cheesy were sitting nice and comfy on the ground and we were back to being buddies. I admit that their pant legs were no longer what you might call blood free, but the amount wasn’t worth mentioning, hardly noticeable.

Bernie returned soon after, gave us all a close look.

“Was there a problem?”

None that I recalled, and Hammy and Cheesy were shaking their heads, the rhythm identical.

“But we were thinking you might cut us a break,” Cheesy said.

“Why would I want to do that?” said Bernie.

Hammy snapped his fingers, a human thing for when they get a sudden idea, but amazing he could do it with his hands cuffed behind his back. “Isn’t it Christmas time?”

“Next week, maybe?” said Cheesy. “Wednesday? Thursday?”

“Friday?” said Hammy.

They gazed up at Bernie, eyes open wide in a hopeful look like they were—oh my goodness!—begging. Didn’t they know begging is a no-no? Also, Bernie had no treats on him. I keep close track of things like that.

“Do I look like Santa?” Bernie said, this whole little back and forth ending in total confusion, at least for me. But Valley PD arrived soon after, along with a nice lady from the peanut oil company, who gave Bernie a check. And we hadn’t even been working the case, not until Hammy and Cheesy almost ran us off the road. What a day! The only problem was Bernie, sticking that check in the chest pocket of his Hawaiian shirt, the one with the dancing tubas. We’d had problems with checks and chest pockets in the past. I barked this low rumbly bark I have. Bernie got a look on his face, like he’d remembered something, and he transferred the check to the front pocket of his jeans, where it was nice and safe. If he wanted to think he’d done that remembering all by himself that was fine with me. Anything Bernie did was fine with me.

We’ve had Porsches in our career, maybe not out the ying-yang, but close. I can’t tell you the actual number because going past two is an issue, but I can see all those lovely rides in my mind. The first one went off a cliff, then the one with the martini glass decals got blown up, or was that the one that ended up in a snowy treetop? It’s hard to keep track. We have busy lives, me and Bernie. Here’s the takeaway: all our Porsches have been old ones fixed up by Nixon Panero, our car guy, and the one we were in now, Bernie behind the wheel and me sitting tall in the shotgun seat—the breeze, not too hot at this time of year, ruffling my fur—was the oldest and best. It’s all wavy black and white stripes, like a squad car rippling its muscles, Bernie says— who else talks like my Bernie?—and he calls it the Beast, on account of what’s under the hood. Bottom line—if you’re ever getting chased by us, just pull over. Whoa! I myself am black and white, specifically black with one white ear. And . . . and I can be something of a beast myself! Wow! For a moment I thought I knew all there was to know. Then the moment passed and I felt better.

“Something on your mind, big guy?”

Nope. Not a thing. Bernie looked at me. I looked at him right back. What a beautiful sight! Just his eyebrows, for example, not the namby-pamby kind of eyebrows you see all too often but eyebrows, amigo, that can’t be missed. On top of that, Bernie’s eyebrows have a language all their own. Right now, they were saying, Chet, you’re something else. I placed my paw on his knee. We sped up, somewhat alarmingly, especially since we seemed to be bumper to bumper on the airport freeway, but Bernie hit the brakes and we were good. He laughed. Bernie’s got the best laugh in the world. You can’t miss it, and a woman in the next lane didn’t. She glanced over, frowning at first, and then not.

Soon after that we were rolling down Mesquite Road, our street, the nicest in the Valley except for all the ones where the rich folks live. We pulled into our driveway and what was this? Action next door at the Parsons’s house?

There hadn’t been much in the way of action at the Parsons’s house for some time. Mr. and Mrs. Parsons were old and not doing well, especially her. As for Iggy, my best pal, the Parsonses had never been able to figure out their electric fence—even though Bernie had checked it out and found it was working perfectly— so Iggy didn’t get out much anymore. Mostly I just saw him through the tall window in their front hall, but he wasn’t there now. Instead he was outside. They were all outside, Mrs. Parsons in her wheelchair and Mr. Parsons guiding the wheelchair with one hand and holding onto Iggy’s leash with the other. Do I need to mention that Iggy was straining against that leash with everything he had in his tiny body, his amazingly long tongue flopping all over the place, and the look in his eyes at its craziest? I don’t think so. You were probably picturing that already, plus the high-pitched yip-yip-yipping. But maybe you missed the little detail of Iggy’s collar, not his normal plain collar but his Christmas collar with flashing red and green lights. The Parsons had bought one for me, too—this was sometime back—but I do not wear flashing light collars. I have black leather for dress up and gator skin for everyday, the story of me and a gator name of Iko and our trip to bayou country way too long to even start on. In the here and now, as Bernie likes to say, we had a taxi parked in the Parsons’s driveway and a taxi driver standing on the lawn, not in a good mood.

“The wheelchair? Plus that yapping little mutt?”

“We’re prepared to pay extra,” said Mr. Parsons.

“Yeah? Two hundred dollars extra?”

By that time, we were out of the car and strolling over.

“Hi, Daniel,” Bernie said. “Where are you headed?”

Mr. Parsons turned to us, stumbling just a bit. Bernie took Iggy’s leash in that smooth way he has, and Iggy went quiet.

“Oh, hi, Bernie,” Mr. Parsons said, somewhat out of breath. “We’re going to a book signing.”

“Where?”

“Bookville. Dame Ariadne Carlisle is Edna’s favorite author.”

“She’s so wonderful, Bernie,” Mrs. Parsons said. “Have you read her?”

“Not to my knowledge,” Bernie said.

“What luck for you! Imagine all the pleasure you’ve got in store. She’s written ninety-nine novels, each one better than the last and all of them with Christmas themes.”

“Oh,” said Bernie.

“Hey!” said the taxi driver. “What am I? A potted plant?”

Bernie turned to him. I turned my nose to him, if that makes sense. Somewhat plantish, certainly, but in a special way you smell a lot in these parts, a combo of garlic plus weed plus mint mouth wash. Here’s an interesting little fact: the mixture is never exactly the same. In short, I knew this guy.

And so did Bernie. “Two Bricks?” he said.

Ah, yes. Orlando “Two Bricks” Short, who’d had a scheme involving counterfeit watches, very good counterfeits if I remember right, except that he’d spelled a word—possibly Rolex— wrong on every one.

Two Bricks took a step back, raising his hands like Bernie was about to draw down on him. What a crazy idea! We weren’t even carrying, plus we never draw down first on anyone. Still, I was suddenly in the mood for the .38 Special. Bernie can shoot spinning dimes out of the air, a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

“I ain’t done nothin’, Bernie,” Two Bricks said. “I’m the most straight up dude in the whole Valley nowadays. Like, actually boring.”

“Perfect,” said Bernie. “So I assume you’re going to drive this very nice couple to Bookville for the meter fare plus a boringly moderate tip. Chet and I will follow, with Iggy here in the back.”

Some things in life start out nicely and then have a nasty twist at the end. This was one of those. Iggy on the little shelf in back? Iggy had never ridden in the Beast. The only member of the nation within—as Bernie calls me and my kind—who had was me. Why couldn’t it stay that way? Was it possible to occupy both the shotgun seat and the little shelf? Why was this even—

“Ch—et?” said Bernie, in this way he has of saying Chet.

First time in a bookstore! The smells! I didn’t even know where to begin. There were all kinds of human smells, which is what you get in crowd situations, and Bookville was packed with humans sitting on card table chairs and standing against the walls. No kids, though, so some of the most interesting smells were missing. Crowds are always better when kids are in them, if you want my opinion, and not just in the smell department. But forget all that. The most interesting smell—apart from the fact that a family of snakes seemed to be living under the floor—came from the bookshelves. So many books! Their smell was wonderful, somewhat like a very dry forest but a cozy, indoor one, if that makes sense, which it probably does not.

Even though there didn’t seem to be room for us, meaning me, Bernie, and Mr. and Mrs. Parsons plus Iggy in her lap, a bookstore worker spotted her and wheeled her to a special section off to the side but up front, so that was where we all ended up, in our own little row with a good view of what I believe is called the podium. I know that from the time Bernie gave the keynote speech at the Great Western Private Eye Association conference. Everyone just loved his talk, although most of the audience had to leave early, probably for family emergencies.

A thin little guy wearing two sets of glasses, one in the normal place and the other on top of his head, was at the podium, speaking softly and reading from a note card.

“Merry, um, Christmas, Hanukkah, and uh, holidays.” He looked up. “Only six book shopping days to go! Heh, heh.” He glanced around, perhaps expecting some sort of reaction, but none came. His gaze returned to the note card. “The Universal Encyclopedia of Christmas calls our guest today ‘the greatest Christmas writer since Dickens.’ And the Reader’s Bible of All Things Mystery says ‘no one writes them any twistier’ than her. So now it’s my, um, pleasure, to introduce or, ah, to welcome to Bookville for the very first time, making her last appearance before Christmas this year—” He looked up and blinked once or twice, “—the loveliest—I mean most beloved author in the whole wide world, Dame Ariadne Carlisle! Let’s give a big . . .”

But the audience was already clapping and cheering. Out from behind a curtain that looked a little like a bedsheet strode a woman who smelled lovely, kind of like one of those long boxes with flowers inside at the first moment someone opens it. She glanced at the thin little guy on her way to the podium and in a low voice said, “Dame as in fame not dame as in scram.”

The thin little guy turned white, but she didn’t notice. Had anyone else heard? Maybe only him and me, him because he was so close and me because, well, I’m me. Meanwhile, I’d left out the most important thing, namely the quality of her voice, kind of like that giant violin humans play between their legs— the name escaping me at the moment—but souped up, so rich and powerful, with a—uh-oh—catlike purr at the core.

Two uh-ohs in one day? That was when I began to worry.


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Inspiration and Mrs. Plansky’s Revenge by Spencer Quinn!

Mrs. Plansky's RevengeMrs. Plansky’s Revenge is bestselling author Spencer Quinn’s first novel in a new series since the meteoric launch of Chet and Bernie–introducing the irresistible and unforgettable Mrs. Plansky, in a story perfect for book clubs and commercial fiction readers.

Mrs. Loretta Plansky, a recent widow in her seventies, is settling into retirement in Florida while dealing with her 98-year-old father and fielding requests for money from her beloved children and grandchildren. Thankfully, her new hip hasn’t changed her killer tennis game one bit.

One night Mrs. Plansky is startled awake by a phone call from a voice claiming to be her grandson Will, who desperately needs ten thousand dollars to get out of a jam. Of course, Loretta obliges—after all, what are grandmothers for, even grandmothers who still haven’t gotten a simple “thank you” for a gift sent weeks ago. Not that she’s counting.

By morning, Mrs. Plansky has lost everything. Law enforcement announces that Loretta’s life savings have vanished, and that it’s hopeless to find the scammers behind the heist. First humiliated, then furious, Loretta Plansky refuses to be just another victim.

In a courageous bid for justice, Mrs. Plansky follows her only clue on a whirlwind adventure to a small village in Romania to get her money and her dignity back—and perhaps find a new lease on life, too.

Read below to see where Spencer Quinn drew his inspiration from when writing Mrs. Plansky’s Revenge!


Inspiration and Mrs. Plansky’s Revenge

Uh-oh. Inspiration is the topic. I’m a little afraid to even go there, in case the gods of inspiration are disturbed by my presence and vote to blacklist me. But unlike with any of the other novels I’ve written, the idea for Mrs. Plansky’s Revenge (my 45th), came directly from a real life event, so maybe the gods will give me a pass.

Five or six years ago, my dad got a phone call. At the time he was in his early nineties. He died two weeks short of his 97th birthday and was in excellent mental shape and very good physical shape until the end. I want to emphasize that mental part. He was a very smart guy: quick, sharp, clear-headed. Back to the call.

Caller: Hey, Grandpa!

My dad: Jake?

Caller: Yeah, Grandpa, it’s me, Jake.

Cut To: My dad’s wife, noticing he’s putting on his jacket.

Wife: Ed? Where are you going?

My dad: To the bank. Jake’s in trouble and he needs some money.

At that point it was decided to call Jake (living in another city), and he had not called my dad and wasn’t in any trouble. “Jake” never got a penny. But I was amazed that someone like my dad could have been fooled.

And then I got back to writing the Chet and Bernie novel I was working on and thought no more about the two Jakes. Then one day on a bike ride the idea for Mrs. Plansky’s Revenge—indeed the whole set-up, including the Romanian part—came to me in one fell swoop. Shall I summarize that now, or go on and on about bike riding, which I do all year round even though I live on Cape Cod where winter temps can dip into the 20’s or even lower, and how I actually prefer the cold days because no one else is on the bike path, so it’s like I’m in one of those dystopian Last Of Us stories, except it’s a utopia? No, that would be boring, so instead the set-up of Mrs. P.

Mrs. Plansky is a seventy-one year old retiree. She and her husband Norm sold a successful small business they built from nothing and moved to Florida for their sunset years, but Norm soon died. Mrs. P has a 98-year-old father in a fancy assisted living she pays for, plus a grown daughter and son with big dreams but not enough money to realize them. Mrs. P is the kind who helps out. She also has two grandchildren, one of whom is Will, out in Colorado. Late one night Mrs. P gets a call from him—a Jake type call—and, following his precise instructions, she sends $9726.18. She can afford it. Her grandson is in trouble. Case closed.

But it wasn’t Will. And because Mrs. P uses the same password for everything, the scammers have cleaned out not just her checking account but her retirement accounts as well, everything. The FBI tells her the scammers are probably in Romania, but identifying them would be almost impossible and the chances of getting her money back are nil. Mrs. P is humiliated. How stupid she’s been! And even worse: she’s let Norm down. She goes to Romania to recover her self-respect, the trust of a dead husband, her money.

So: that all dropped into my mind on the bike path but at first I didn’t connect it to my dad! Then I started wondering why I’d chosen the name Plansky. Bingo! Tony Plansky was a legendary track coach at Williams College, where the Navy had sent my dad in WW2 as part of their program to get officers (my dad commanded a sub chaser hunting Nazi U-boats in the Atlantic). My dad had run cross country at Williams and he had some funny stories about Tony Plansky. And when I went to Williams in the 1960’s he was still there! Therefore Mrs. Plansky’s name was the bridge to where my story had come from, even if I was too blockheaded to put it together myself. Just one more reason to love what my grandmother always called “the writing game.”

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Above: Tony Plansky

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Above: Ed Abrahams


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Forge Your Own Book Club for Mrs. Plansky’s Revenge by Spencer Quinn!

Mrs. Plansky's RevengeBy Ariana Carpentieri:

Mrs. Loretta Plansky, a recent widow in her seventies, is settling into retirement in Florida while dealing with her 98-year-old father and fielding requests for money from her beloved children and grandchildren. Thankfully, her new hip hasn’t changed her killer tennis game one bit.

One night Mrs. Plansky is startled awake by a phone call from a voice claiming to be her grandson Will, who desperately needs ten thousand dollars to get out of a jam. Of course, Loretta obliges—after all, what are grandmothers for, even grandmothers who still haven’t gotten a simple “thank you” for a gift sent weeks ago. Not that she’s counting.

By morning, Mrs. Plansky has lost everything. Law enforcement announces that Loretta’s life savings have vanished, and that it’s hopeless to find the scammers behind the heist. First humiliated, then furious, Loretta Plansky refuses to be just another victim.

In a courageous bid for justice, Mrs. Plansky follows her only clue on a whirlwind adventure to a small village in Romania to get her money and her dignity back—and perhaps find a new lease on life, too.

Mrs. Plansky’s Revenge is an excellent choice for your next book club discussion. Here’s a breakdown on what to watch, what to eat, what to drink, what to listen to, and what to discuss while you read it!


WHAT TO WATCH

Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle Original Japanese Movie Poster

Mrs. Plansky’s Revenge is a story about an older woman who loses everything and must go on a physical, emotional, and mental journey to get her life back. It’s a tale of redemption and finding oneself along the way. A movie with a similar plot-line is Hayao Miyazaki’s acclaimed Studio Ghibli film, Howl’s Moving Castle, which is about a girl who’s turned into an old woman by a powerful witch and must go on a journey in order to get her youth back. Along the way she forges friendships, experiences new things, faces hardships, and ultimately discovers a new appreciation for life. Both stories portray little old ladies who are actually anything but—they’re strong, determined, and must embark on a journey to reclaim their lives!

WHAT TO EAT

Papanasi prajiti: secretul ca sa iti iasa moi si pufosi - Kanal D Romania

Mrs. Plansky is a kind grandmother who’s tricked into losing all of her life savings. Law enforcement informs her that it’s hopeless to find the scammers behind the heist, but Loretta Plansky refuses to be just another victim. In a courageous bid for justice, Mrs. Plansky follows her only clue on a whirlwind adventure to a small village in Romania to get her money and her dignity back—and perhaps find a new lease on life, too. With her trip whisking her off to Romania, I think this book calls to be paired with a classic Romanian dessert! Papanașior Romanian cheese donuts, are by far the country’s most popular and beloved dessert. Papanași can be fried or boiled – both are delicious, and the boiled variation generally has a breadcrumb and sugar coating!

WHAT TO DRINK

Long Island Iced Tea Recipe and Variations

It’s no secret that Mrs. Planksy is a sweet but strong old woman. She’s got a lot on her plate and is determined to get her life back after everything was unjustly stolen from her. I think a drink that’s sweet, but also packs a punch, would be a perfect fit for Mrs. Plansky. So I’d say a Long Island Iced Tea is the way to go! But if alcoholic beverages aren’t your thing, then a plain iced tea would also do the trick. Plus, both are perfect summer drinks to sip on if you read this with your book club during the upcoming warmer months!

WHAT TO LISTEN TO

Float On (Modest Mouse song) - Wikipedia

The song Float On by Modest Mouse is a great song to pair with this book because it’s all about pushing through what’s bad in order to make it through. The lyrics paint a picture that you can still find light even in the darkness, and serves as a reminder that the hard times will eventually pass. There’s even a mention in the song about getting scammed (which is exactly what happens to poor Mrs.Plansky), saying they “took every last dime with that scam.” But looking on the bright side, it continues with: “Bad news comes, don’t you worry even when it lands / Good news will work its way to all them plans.” I think Mrs. Plansky would appreciate listening to a song like this because it would help keep her motivated as she strives to get her money and dignity back!

WHAT TO DISCUSS

Download the Mrs. Plansky’s Revenge Reading Group Guide for insightful questions to get the discussion going!

Quinn Mrs Planskys Revenge RGG (1)

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Excerpt Reveal: Mrs. Plansky’s Revenge by Spencer Quinn

Mrs. Plansky's RevengeMrs. Plansky’s Revenge is bestselling author Spencer Quinn’s first novel in a new series since the meteoric launch of Chet and Bernie–introducing the irresistible and unforgettable Mrs. Plansky, in a story perfect for book clubs and commercial fiction readers.

Mrs. Loretta Plansky, a recent widow in her seventies, is settling into retirement in Florida while dealing with her 98-year-old father and fielding requests for money from her beloved children and grandchildren. Thankfully, her new hip hasn’t changed her killer tennis game one bit.

One night Mrs. Plansky is startled awake by a phone call from a voice claiming to be her grandson Will, who desperately needs ten thousand dollars to get out of a jam. Of course, Loretta obliges—after all, what are grandmothers for, even grandmothers who still haven’t gotten a simple “thank you” for a gift sent weeks ago. Not that she’s counting.

By morning, Mrs. Plansky has lost everything. Law enforcement announces that Loretta’s life savings have vanished, and that it’s hopeless to find the scammers behind the heist. First humiliated, then furious, Loretta Plansky refuses to be just another victim.

In a courageous bid for justice, Mrs. Plansky follows her only clue on a whirlwind adventure to a small village in Romania to get her money and her dignity back—and perhaps find a new lease on life, too.

Mrs. Plansky’s Revenge will be available on July 25th, 2023. Please enjoy the following excerpt!


CHAPTER ONE

“Hello, it is I, your grandson, insert name here,” said Dinu.

“Correct,” said Professor Bogdan, language teacher at Liceu Teoretic. He leaned back in his chair and lit up a Chesterfield. “But too correct, you know?”

Too correct? Dinu did not know. In addition, he was asthmatic and the mere presence of a cigarette aroused a twitchy feeling in his lungs. No smoking in school, of course, but these private lessons, paid for by Uncle Dragomir, weren’t about school.

Professor Bogdan blew out a thin, dense stream of smoke, one little streamlet branching off and heading in Dinu’s direction. “There is English, Dinu, and then there is English as she is spoken.” He smiled an encouraging smile. His teeth were yellow, shading into brown at the gumline.

“English is she?” Dinu said.

For God’s sake, it’s a joke,” said Professor Bogdan. “Is there gender in English?”

“I don’t think such.”

“So. You don’t think so. Come, Dinu. You’ve studied three years of English. Loosen up.”

“Loosen up?”

“That’s how the young in America talk. Loosen up, chill out, later.” He tapped a cylinder of ash into a paper cup on his desk. “Which is in fact what you need to know if I’m not mistaken, the argot of youth.” He glanced at Dinu. Their eyes met. Professor Bogdan looked away. “My point,” he went on, “is that no American says ‘it is I.’ They say ‘it’s me.’ The grammar is wrong but that’s how they say it. You must learn the right wrong grammar. That’s the secret of sounding American.”

“How will I learn?”

“There are ways. For one you could go to YouTube and type in ‘Country Music.’ Now begin again.”

“Hello, it’s me, your grandson, insert name here,” Dinu said.

“Much better,” said Professor Bogdan. “You might even say, ‘Yo, it’s me.’”

“Yo?”

“On my last trip I heard a lot of yo. Even my brother says it.”

“Your brother in New Hampshire?”

“No P sound. And ‘sher,’ not ‘shire.’ But yes, my brother.”

“The brother who is owning a business?”

“Who owns a business. Bogdan Plumbing and Heating.” Professor Bogdan opened a drawer, took out a T-shirt, and tossed it to Dinu.

Dinu shook it out, held it up, took a look. On the front was a cartoon-type picture of a skier with tiny icicles in his bushy black mustache, brandishing a toilet plunger over his head. On the back it said: Bogdan Plumbing and Heating, Number 1 in the Granite State.

Dinu made a motion to hand it back.

“Keep it,” said Professor Bogdan.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. New Hampshire is the Granite State. All the states have nicknames.”

“What is nicknames?”

“Like pet names. For example, what does your mother call you?”

“Dinu.”

Professor Bogdan blinked a couple of times. Like the skier, he had a bushy mustache, except his was mostly white. “Texas is the Lone Star State, Florida is the Sunshine State, Georgia is the Peach State.”

“Georgia?”

“They have a Georgia of their own. They have everything, Dinu, although . . .” He leaned across the desk and pointed at Dinu with his nicotine-stained finger. “Although most of them don’t realize it and complain all the time just like us.”

“Does your brother complain?” Dinu said.

Professor Bogdan’s eyebrows, not quite as bushy as his mustache, rose in surprise. “No, Dinu. He does not complain. My brother grew up here. But his children—do you know what they drive? Teslas! Teslas almost fully paid off! But they complain.”

Those state nicknames sounded great to Dinu, even magical in the case of the lone star. He knew one thing for sure: if he ever got to America, Tesla or no Tesla, he would never complain. Just to get out of the flat where he lived with his mother, much better than the one-room walk-up they’d occupied before Uncle Dragomir started helping out, but still a flat too cold in winter, too hot in summer, with strange smells coming up from the sink drain and—

The door opened and Uncle Dragomir, not the knocking type, walked in. Professor Bogdan’s office got smaller right away. Bogdan half rose from his chair.

“How’s he doing?” Uncle Dragomir said in their native tongue, indicating Dinu with a little chin motion. He had a large, square chin, a nose that matched, large square hands, and a large square body, everything about him large and square, other than his eyes. His eyes were small, round, glinting.

“Oh, fine,” said Professor Bogdan. “Coming along nicely. Good. Very well.”

“In time,” said Uncle Dragomir.

“In time?”

“How much longer. Days? Weeks? Months?”

Professor Bogdan turned to Dinu and switched to English. “Weeks we can do, don’t you think?”

“I don’t know,” Dinu said.

Professor Bogdan turned to Uncle Dragomir, switched back to their language, and smiling as brightly as he could with teeth like his, said, “Weeks, Dragomir.”

Uncle Dragomir fastened his glinting gaze on Professor Bogdan. “In my career I’ve dealt with types who like to stretch out the job. I know you’re not like them.”

Professor Bogdan put his hand to his chest. “The furthest thing from it. Not many weeks, Dragomir, not many at all.”

Hmmf,” said Uncle Dragomir. He took out his money roll, separated some bills without counting, leaned across the desk, and stuffed them in the chest pocket of Professor Bogdan’s shirt. Then he turned, possibly on his way out, but that was when he noticed the T-shirt, lying in Dinu’s lap. “What’s that?”

Professor Bogdan explained—his brother, the Granite State, plumbing and heating.

“Let’s see it on,” said Uncle Dragomir.

“It’s my size,” Dinu said.

“Let’s see.”

Dinu considered putting on the T-shirt over his satin-lined leather jacket. Not real satin or leather although very close. But the T-shirt would probably not fit over the jacket. It was a stupid idea. The problem was that he wore nothing under the jacket, all his shirts dirty, the washer broken and his mother once again dealing with the swollen hands issue. He took off the jacket.

Professor Bogdan’s gaze went right to the big bruise over his ribs on the right side, not a fresh bruise—purple and yellow now, kind of like summer sunsets if the wind was coming out of the mountains and blowing the pollution away—but impossible to miss. Uncle Dragomir didn’t give it the slightest glance. Instead he helped himself to a Chesterfield from Professor Bogdan’s pack, lying on the desk.

Dinu put on the T-shirt.

“The plunger is funny,” said Uncle Dragomir, lighting up.

Desfundator was their word for plunger. Plunger was better. The smoke from Uncle Dragomir’s cigarette reached him. He began to cough. That made his chest hurt, under the bruise.


Click below to pre-order your copy of Mrs. Plansky’s Revengeavailable 7.25.23!

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What Makes a Dog the Perfect Companion by Spencer Quinn

Bark to the FutureSpencer Quinn’s Bark to the Future continues the adventurous New York Times and USA Today bestselling series that Stephen King calls “without a doubt the most original mystery series currently available.” Chet the dog, “the most lovable narrator in all of crime fiction” (Boston Globe) is the best partner to fight against crime.

Read below to see Spencer’s take on what makes a dog the perfect companion!


By Spencer Quinn:

The topic for today’s post is: What makes a dog the perfect companion? I thought for a while about this and suddenly realized: that’s what the Chet and Bernie series is all about! So I could either write a little essay using the analytical part of my mind, OR, I could find a passage that came from the imaginative part of my mind that distills the answer to the perfect dog question down to its essence. Since the imaginative part of my mind is what puts bread on the table, let’s open door #2. Here’s a very short partial scene from Bark To The Future, where Chet (the dog) and Bernie (the detective) pay their first visit to the slot canyon you will see on the book cover. Chet (not a talking dog!) narrates:

We rounded a corner, a twisted sort of corner with the walls twisted now, too, mostly reddish but marked with shadowy caves here and there. Two light beams from high above shone down and met on the trail right in front of me. My paws tingled.

“I came here with my dad,” Bernie said.

Whoa! His dad? This was a first.

“Not long before the stroke, so I must have been seven, maybe eight,” Bernie went on. “That day was the only time he ever gave me advice. Maybe there would have been others in a different scenario, maybe not.” He was silent for a bit and then went on. “I used to think it was hiking advice but lately I’ve wondered if he had something more general in mind.”

Bernie picked up a stone and flung it high in the air, with that easy flowing motion of his. The stone passed through both light beams – shining, darkening, shining, darkening – and disappeared into a cave way up on the far wall.

“My dad said ‘always piss downwind and downhill and you won’t go wrong.’”

I was stunned. Downhill and downwind. Had I ever come across more useful advice? It was more than enough to think about forever. Bernie’s dad said it? When was I going to meet him? I couldn’t wait.


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Excerpt Reveal: Bark to the Future by Spencer Quinn

Bark to the FutureSpencer Quinn’s Bark to the Future continues the adventurous New York Times and USA Today bestselling series that Stephen King calls “without a doubt the most original mystery series currently available.”

When Chet the dog, “the most lovable narrator in all of crime fiction” (Boston Globe), and his human partner, PI Bernie Little, are approached by a down-and-out older man with a cardboard sign at an exit ramp, Bernie is shocked to discover the man is a former teammate from his high school baseball team. Chet and Bernie take Rocket out for a good meal, and later, Bernie investigates Rocket’s past, trying to figure out what exactly went wrong.

Then, Rocket goes suspiciously missing. With his former teammate likely in danger, Bernie goes back to his old high school for answers, where much that he remembers turns out not to be true—and there are powerful and dangerous people not happy with the questions Bernie is asking.

Bernie soon learns that he misunderstood much about his high school years – and now, Chet and Bernie are plunged into a dangerous case where the past isn’t dead and the future could be fatal.

Bark to the Future will be available on August 9th, 2022. Please enjoy the following excerpt!


CHAPTER ONE

“Let’s see what this baby can do,” Bernie said.

And there you have it. Bernie’s brilliance, lighting up the whole oil-stained yard at Nixon’s Championship Autobody. Let’s see what this baby can do. Can you imagine anyone else saying that? I sure can’t. I wouldn’t even try, and who knows Bernie better than me? Sometimes humans talk to themselves, as you may or may not know. Humans have a lot going on in their heads. Too much? I couldn’t tell you. But I wouldn’t trade places. Let’s leave it at that. The point is that when they’re talking to themselves they’re trying to dig down through all the too-muchness and get to what’s at the bottom, digging, as it happens, being one of my very best things. Maybe we’ll get to that later. For now, the takeaway is that Bernie talks to himself in front of me. So I know what’s at the bottom of Bernie, way down deep, case closed. Closing cases is what we do, by the way, me and Bernie. We’re partners in the Little Detective Agency—Little on account of that’s Bernie’s last name. Call me Chet, pure and simple. Our cases usually get closed by me grabbing the perp by the pant leg. Although there were no perps around right now and we weren’t even working a case, my teeth got a funny feeling.

Nixon Panero, owner of the shop and our good buddy, patted the hood of our new Porsche. We’ve had others—maybe more than I can count, since things get iffy when I try to go past two—but never one this old. Could I even remember them all? Perhaps not, although I have a very clear picture of the last one in my mind, upside down and soaring through snowy treetops, the windows all blasted out and me and Bernie also in midair, although slightly closer to the ground. I’d miss that Porsche—especially the martini glass decals on the fenders—but this one, with an interesting black and white pattern, as though a normal PD squad car was rippling its muscles, if that makes any sense, looked none too shabby. In fact, and in a strange dreamlike way, a thing of beauty. And to top it off, my seat—the shotgun seat, goes without mentioning—couldn’t have been more comfortable, the leather soft and firm at the same time, and possibly quite tasty. A no-no, and I forgot that whole idea at once.

“One last thing,” Nixon said.

Bernie, hands on the wheel, ready to go, glanced up at him.

“All parts guaranteed original and authentic,” Nixon said. “Excepting certain aspects of the engine.”

“No problem,” Bernie said. “You’re the expert.”

“Thanks, Bernie. But what I’m saying is in horsepower terms authentic might be stretching it the teensiest bit. So my advice would be to take it on the easy side at first.”

“Sure thing,” Bernie said, sliding his foot over to the gas pedal.

“On account of what we’ve got here,” Nixon began, “is kind of a—”

Beast? Was that what Nixon said? I couldn’t be sure, because at that moment Bernie’s foot—he was wearing flip flops, one new-looking, the other old and worn—touched the pedal, just the lightest touch to my way of thinking, but enough to get our new engine excited in no uncertain terms. It roared a tremendous roar and this new dreamlike ride of ours shot out of Nixon’s yard and into the street. I felt like my head was getting left behind, meaning that shooting out doesn’t really do the job here. Was it possible we were actually off the ground? I believed we were.

“Woo eee!” Bernie cried as he brought us safely down, all tires on the pavement. “Woo eee, baby!”

As for me, I got my head and body properly organized, sat up straight and howled at the moon, although it was daytime and cloudy to boot. We had a beast on our side. No one could touch us now, although the truth was no one ever had before. I felt tip-top, or even better.

“My god,” said Bernie, as we came off a two-laner that had taken us deep into the desert and far from the Valley, where we live, and merged onto a freeway, the tops of the downtown towers visible in the distance, their lower parts lost in the brassy haze. “Can you believe what just happened?” We slowed down to what seemed like nothing, although we were zooming past everyone else. Bernie patted the dash and glanced my way. “Rough beast, big guy, its hour come round at last.” That one zipped right by me, but Bernie laughed so it must have been funny. “Did we hit one forty? Next time I’ll snap a picture of the speedometer. You’ll have to take the wheel.”

No problem. That had actually happened once, if very briefly, down Mexico way, where Bernie and I had had to leave a nice little cantina in somewhat of a hurry, following a misunderstanding between Bernie, a very friendly lady, and a late-arriving gentleman who turned out to be her husband and also the head of the local cartel. Bottom line: Bernie could count on me.

Not long after that we were winding slowly down the ramp at the Rio Vista Bridge, close to home. There’s always a backup on the ramp, and at the bottom a few leathery skinned men holding paper cups or sometimes cardboard signs are waiting. Today there was only one, a real skinny barefoot guy, wearing frayed cargo shorts and nothing else, his shoulders the boniest I’d ever seen. He was mostly bald, but had a ponytail happening at the back, a gray ponytail with yellow-stained ends, the same yellow you see on the fingertips of smokers. Also—and maybe the first thing I noticed—a small but jagged scar across the bridge of his nose. A cigarette was hanging from the side of his mouth but its tiny fire had gone out. Traffic came to a stop when we were right beside him. He looked down at us, his eyes watery blue. I was pretty sure I hadn’t seen him before, and certain I’d never smelled him. My nose is never wrong on things like that. In this case it wasn’t even a close call. Had I ever picked up a human scent so . . . how would you put it? Complex? Rich? Over the top? You pick. As for me, I was starting to like this dude a lot. Meanwhile Bernie dug out a few bills from the cup holder and handed them over.

Except not quite. Yes, Bernie held out the money, but the dude made no move to grab it. Instead he shook his head and said, “Can’t take your money, Bernie.”

“Excuse me?” Bernie said.

The dude took the cigarette out of his mouth, plucked a little twist of something from between two chipped and yellowed teeth, and said it again.

Bernie gave him a close look. “Do I know you?” he said.

“Guess not,” said the dude. He glanced down at the money, still in Bernie’s outstretched hand, and his lips curled in a sort of sneer, like that money was way beneath him. “But I’ll take a light,” he said.

Bernie stuck the money back in the cup holder, fumbled around inside, found a book of matches and held them out. The guy took the matches, broke one off, but he couldn’t get it lit, his hands suddenly very shaky. In front us traffic started moving. From behind came honking, not easy on my ears. Bernie pulled off the ramp, getting us mostly onto the narrow dirt strip next to the bridge supports. He opened the door, put one foot on the ground and looked back at me.

“Better stay, Chet.”

Too late. Meanwhile the traffic from behind was on the move, perhaps still slightly blocked by us, but hardly at all. A truck driver leaned out of his window, an unpleasant expression on his face. He opened his mouth to say something, saw me, and changed his mind.

“Here,” said Bernie, holding out his hand.

“Here what?” said the dude.

“The matches.”

The dude handed over the matches. Bernie lit one, cupped the flame. The dude leaned in, got his cigarette going. For a moment, his face—so weathered, wrinkled, with little blotches here and there—was almost touching Bernie’s hand, so perfect. The dude straightened, took a deep drag, let it out slow, smoke streaming from his nostrils.

“Waiting for me to say thanks?” said the dude.

“No,” said Bernie.

“Then get back in your super duper car.” He glanced over at me, turned away, then gave me another look. “The both of you.”

“In a hurry to get rid of us?” Bernie said.

The dude was silent for what seemed like a long time. Then came a bit of a surprise. He smiled. Not a big smile, and lots of teeth were missing and the tip of his tongue was yellow-brown, but he no longer looked quite so messed up.

“You haven’t changed,” he said. “Always those goddamn questions.”

“For example?”

The dude thought for a moment or two. Then he stiffened and shouted at Bernie, a shout with a sort of whispery, ragged edge, so not particularly loud, but real angry. “You makin’ fun of me, Bernie? That’s another question you just asked. Think I’m nothin’ but . . . but . . .” Whatever it was, he couldn’t come up with it.

“Sorry,” Bernie said, “I didn’t—”

The dude’s eyes narrowed down to two watery slits. “You was always an asshole but not mean. What the hell happened?”

“Look,” Bernie said, “I—”

“Aw, the hell with it,” the dude said, his anger vanishing all at once. He waved his hand—fingers bent, nails thick and yellow—in a throwaway gesture. “You stood up for me. I don’t forget things like that. Well, I do. I forget . . . you name it.” He laughed a croaky laugh that got croakier until he finally spat out a brownish gob. It landed at the base of one of the bridge supports. I moved in that direction. At the same time, the dude took a very deep drag, blew out a thick smoke ball, peered through it at Bernie, then wagged his finger. “But I sure as shit remember that time with Raker.”

“Coach Raker?” Bernie said.

“Who the hell else are we jawin’ about?” said the dude. “He was gonna bench me for showin’ up late to the game against Central Tech and you said hey coach bench me I forgot to pick him up on the way to school. Which wasn’t even true. No way you don’t remember that. You were on the mound and don’t deny it. Two outs, bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, up one zip, and some dude hits a scorcher in the gap and who runs it down?” The dude tapped his skinny chest. “Game over. Took us to the state, uh, whatever it is.”

Bernie has wonderful eyebrows, with a language all their own. Now they were saying a whole bunch, but amazement was a big part of it.

“Championship,” he said softly.

“Yeah, state championship, what I said,” said the dude. “Next year you guys won it but I was . . . was . . . like movin’ on.”

“Rocket?” Bernie said. “Rocket Saluka?”

The dude—Rocket Saluka, if I was following things right—nodded a slow, serious kind of nod, and stood very straight before us, there in the bridge shadows, his shoulders back, his scrawny bare chest rising and falling. He and Bernie had played on the same team? Had I gotten that right? Baseball, for sure, bottom of the ninth and bases loaded being baseball lingo, but how was it possible? Rocket was an old man.

Traffic on the ramp was now mostly stop and not much go, meaning folks had plenty of time to check us out. Rocket didn’t seem to notice them, and neither did Bernie. He and Rocket were just standing there, Rocket smoking his cigarette, Bernie watching him. At last Bernie said, “I could use a burger.”

Rocket nodded another slow, serious nod.

“How about you?” Bernie said.

Rocket took one last drag and tossed the butt away. Bernie ground it under his heel. I took a good close-range sniff of Rocket’s brownish gob, lying in the dirt. Was actual tasting necessary? I was leaning in that direction when Bernie made the little chkk-chkk sound that meant we were out of there. Burgers or brownish gobs? Burgers! Burgers for sure! But that was Bernie, always the smartest human in the room. Just follow him—especially from in front, like I do—and you can’t go wrong.

There are many Burger Heavens in the Valley—just one of the reasons it’s the best place on earth—but our favorite is the one between Mama’s Bowlerama and Mama’s Kitchen, Bath and Fine Art, mostly because Mama owns it, too, and Bernie’s a big fan of Mama, has told me more than once that she’s what puts America over the top. Perhaps a bit confusing—I had a notion that Bernie and I were Americans and that was pretty much it—but it didn’t matter. Mama’s burgers were the best I’d ever tasted. I was enjoying one now just the way I liked it at a picnic table on one side of the Burger Heaven parking lot, on a paper plate, no bun, no nothing, and over in a jiff. Bernie sat on one side of the table, dipping fries into a ketchup cup. Rocket sat on the other side. He’d polished off his first burger real fast, taken a little more time with the second, and was now working his way through the next one, the number for what comes after two escaping me at the moment. Except for ordering, no one had said a thing. Now and then, Mama glanced our way from the kitchen window of the hut, her huge gold hoop earrings the brightest sight in view.

Rocket burped, sat back, searched the pockets of his cargo shorts, pulled out a switchblade knife, not an uncommon sight in my line of work, but it seemed to surprise him. He shoved the knife back in his pocket. The top of the handle, rounded off with a green-eyed human skull decoration, peeped out from inside his pocket.

“What you got there?” Bernie said.

“MVP,” said Rocket.

“Most valuable player?”

“Close, real close,” Rocket said. “Most valuable possession.”

“What makes it valuable?” Bernie said.

Rocket shoved the knife deeper in his pocket, the green-eyed skull now disappearing from view. “Let’s keep that between the two of us, me and me,” he said. “Keep on keepin’ it thataway.” His hand was still in his pocket, rummaging around. It emerged with a bent cigarette. “Smoke?”

“Sure,” said Bernie, meaning he was about to take one of those breaks from giving up smoking.

Now would be when most folks would be expecting Rocket to produce another cigarette, but that didn’t happen. Instead he broke the bent one in two and handed half to Bernie.

“Thanks,” said Bernie, striking a match.

They smoked in silence for a while, Rocket taking quick glances at Bernie, Bernie looking nowhere special. I got the feeling something might be going on in Bernie’s mind, but whatever it was he was in no hurry. I was about to settle down under the table for a little shut-eye when the Burger Heaven back door opened and Mama stepped out with a package in her hand. She came over to the table. Rocket didn’t seem to notice her until she was right there. Then he looked startled.

“What the hell?” he said. Rocket’s hand went right to his cargo shorts pocket, the one with the flip knife inside.


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Inspiration, the Holidays, and Me

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Spencer Quinn’s It’s a Wonderful Woof presents a holiday adventure for Chet the dog, “the most lovable narrator in crime fiction” (Boston Globe), and his human partner, PI Bernie Little.

Spencer Quinn has joined us on the blog today to talk about what inspired this new, festive installment to the Chet & Bernie series!


What inspired me to write It’s A Wonderful Woof, the new Chet and Bernie holiday novel? I’m afraid my answer will be hidden in a thicket of digressions and caveats. For example, while it is a holiday novel, the main holiday in the story is Christmas. But there’s also a Hanukkah scene that’s one of my favorite passages in the book. Warning – be aware that the writer can never be sure of what will be a favorite passage before it’s written, and may also be mistaken even after.

Then there’s the whole issue of inspiration – where it comes from, how to make it happen, whether to trust it. And more important and also a bit chilling: is it dangerous to start exploring this territory? What if the inspiration mechanism isn’t fond of being explored, and curls up in a ball at the first sign that digging is getting near?

And what about this? Does a Christmas/Hanukkah themed novel suit the world of Chet and Bernie? Their world – for those who don’t know – is one of crime solving. Chet and Bernie are a crime solving duo out West, mostly in Arizona, if Chet has gotten that fact right. Chet, partner of Bernie, the private detective, narrates the story. Notice I didn’t say he tells the story. That’s because he’s a dog – as canine a dog as I can make him – and therefore can not talk. But as anyone who knows dogs can tell you, they have a narrative of what’s going on unspooling in their minds. That’s what’s on the page in the Chet and Bernie novels. 

Their stories – and I’m not the first to say this – have a beating heart, a spirit, an engine at the center. It’s the love between Chet and Bernie. So let’s throw some random words around, or call them key words if you like: spirit, Christmas, love, holiday, heart, Hanukkah. Presto! The theme fits the world. Like the kind of gloves that don’t need to be returned on the twenty-sixth. A solid foundation is in place. Now all that’s needed is the inspiration: Hey! How about a holiday novel with C&B?

Long bike rides are good coaxers of inspiration. So are long showers, or long swims – it’s something in the water, no doubt. Or, to take a more superficially mundane example, a call might come from an editor: “Any interest in writing a Christmas/holiday Chet and Bernie novel?” 

Bingo! Inspiration strikes again! You just have to be there.

Get your copy of It’s A Wonderful Woof—available now!

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