Bernie Little, graduate of West Point and former cop, runs the 'Little Detective Agency,' which consists of Bernie and his dog Chet. The agency is located somewhere in the New Mexico/Nevada area.
The book is narrated by Chet from his doggy point of view, which makes it fun since he doesn't quite get idioms, is confused by conversations, sees the world through his schnoz, and is always on the lookout for a tasty snack. Chet has heard Bernie talking about the agency's 'cash flow problem' and thinks Bernie needs to take a job soon.
So it's all good when Bernie is hired by an attractive divorcée, Cynthia Chambliss, who's worried because her teen daughter Madison didn't come home from school. Madison soon reappears with a bogus story about where she was, but Bernie figures all is well and goes about his business. Before long Madison disappears again, and this time she doesn't return. So Bernie and Chet get back on the case.
Madison's father, Damon Keefer, is a big-time real estate tycoon in the midst of constructing a high-end housing development. He seems a little blasé about Madison, suggesting she ran off to Las Vegas to let off some steam and will soon return. He also seems to want Bernie off the case - and he's not the only one. As soon as Bernie signs on to look for Madison a strange car starts lurking around his neighborhood and odd things start to happen.
The worst thing is Chet's dognapping. When the pooch sneaks out to visit a girl dog with a seductive bark he's snatched up, thrown into the skulking car's trunk, and driven very far away. Chet soon falls into the hands of a Russian mobster who calls him 'Stalin' and plans to enter him into Mexican dog fights. Before Chet makes his escape he glimpes Madison in a window...but unfortunately Chet can't communicate this to Bernie when he gets home after additional harrowing adventures.
In the course of their inquiries Bernie and Chet talk to Madison's family and friends, visit Keefer's pricey housing project, come across Russian mobsters, find themselves in dangerous situations, and so on. As it happens Bernie also becomes interested in a pretty journalist named Suzie, though Chet isn't exactly sure what's going on between them. Suzie has tasty dog biscuits in her car, though, so it's all good...ha ha ha.
The story's plot is pretty straightforward and the culprits - and their motivation - are not too hard to work out. The pleasure of the book lies more in the entertaining characters and the mountainous setting of the story. I especially liked Chet and his quirky brand of narration.
This is an enjoyable light mystery, the first in the 'Bernie and Chet' series. I'd recommend the book to fans of humorous suspense stories.
Rating: 3.5 stars