Lynn: You’ve heard of hard-bitten detectives, but how about a detective that bites? Meet Bowser, one member of a detective partnership featured in Spencer Quinn’s new series opener Woof (2015). Bowser is the canine birthday gift that 11-year-old Birdie picks out from the pound and takes home. A bit dim and distractible, but lovable, loyal, and all dog with a capital D, exuberant Bowser narrates this nose-witness story of how he and Birdie solve the mystery of the missing trophy fish, Black Jack. But this mystery is about much more than a missing marlin. It is about a treasure map rumored to be hidden in Black Jack, about a mysterious truck seen around town, and about the secrets that Birdie’s Grammy is so obviously keeping.
Birdie’s Grammy runs Gaux Family Fish and Bait in St. Roch, Louisiana, Birdie’s mama works for long stretches at a time on an off-shore oil rig, and Birdie’s father, a policeman, died in the line of duty when Birdie was little. Birdie remembers him telling her, “No loose ends, Birdie.” It’s something she keeps in mind as she and Bowser set out to solve this puzzling case.
I will admit to being a bit wary of books narrated by animals, as often they turn out to be cloyingly cute. But fortunately that is not the case here. Clearly Quinn knows and loves dogs and Bowser’s voice comes across sounding exactly like I would imagine the dogs in my life might sound like. And Bowser is quite a dog. A young stray with a tough life behind him, Bowser thinks Birdie is the best thing in the world—better than rawhide chews or even bacon! He and Birdie are a team from day one. Bowser’s goofy, charming character provides real laugh-out-loud humor that is an interesting contrast to the sweetly subtle portrayals of Birdie, a tough young girl who has some well-hidden vulnerabilities, and Grammy, her crabby but caring grandmother. Add all this to a terrific mystery with some really bad dudes and you’ve got a winner. Go fetch!