My Favorite Narrator is a Dog

By Paul Heinlein | Apr 11, 2016

Whether or not it’s true that additional scenes were added to Suicide Squad to provide additional humor, I’m fairly convinced that the commercial success of films like The Martian, Guardians of the Galaxy, Deadpool, and The Avengers was in large part due to their good humor and jaunty tone.

Christopher Nolan’s work on the Batman series was wonderful, but Nolan’s dark and serious tone became a trainwreck in the hands of Zack Snyder, whose Superman movies make me wonder if the Man of Steel ever wanted someone to smile. All that Sturm und Drang left those films with a post-apolcalyptic feel that’s completely out of place in the DC universe.

Why convey joy? Even if all you get is gallows humor—and there are certainly situations where that’s the only joy to be found—even an occasional smirk or guffaw feels way more human to me than a joyless stream of bleakness.

I find myself having the same reaction to the narrative voice in novels. All work and no play makes for a dull story. Worse, it will lack any similarity to the world around me, where sooner or later someone will try to crack a joke (even if it’s bad or inappropriate).

So sometimes—not all the time, but sometimes—I want a narrative voice that’s jaunty, optimistic, able to find the light side of life’s absurdities. For my money, few authors working today do that better than Spencer Quinn, author of the Chet and Bernie mystery series.

Bernie is a private detective and Chet his dog, but it’s Chet who narrates the series. Although he’s an unreliable narrator, Chet is optimistic, quick to find the joy in life, unquestionably loyal to Bernie, and nicely positioned to point out human foibles. I’ll be the first to admit that the schtick can get a bit repetitive, and I don’t recommend binge reading the series, but I cannot wipe the stupid grin off my face while I’m reading Chet’s stories.

If you’re looking for a mystery that’s light-hearted and big-hearted, I cannot recommend these books highly enough.