Saturday, September 23, 2023

The Dog Isn't Who He Really Is In Play Dead by David Rosenfelt

Scott D. Parker

Who doesn’t love comfort food? There’s a reason why we call pumpkin spice lattes, chocolate chip cookies, queso, ice cream, or McDonald’s French fries comfort food. When we eat these foods, we are comforted, usually by a past memory that soothes some current problem. Everyone loves and needs comfort food from time to time.

So when I call the Andy Carpenter novels by David Rosenfelt comfort reading, I am not dogging them (yes, pun intended). I love them, but my ADHD reading style usually prevents me from reading a lot by the same author back to back to back. When the clock turned to “fall” post Labor Day, I had a hankering for an Andy Carpenter novel. Thankfully, the Libby app reminded me where I left off: five books done, time for book 6 in the series.

Play Dead starts with a scene I, as a dog owner and lover, can easily relate to. Attorney Andy Carpenter visits the kennel he owns, he discovers that Yogi, a golden retriever, is on doggie death row. That is, about to be put down for biting its owner. But Carpender, like Rosenfelt, knows dogs—a key co-star in these books is Andy’s own golden retriever, Tara—and he doesn’t think Yogi is at fault. So he decides to represent the dog in court and earn the pooch his freedom.

It’s Andy Carpenter so he wins, but the victory is short lived. No sooner was Andy walking his new dog that it runs to a lady. She’s not the owner. It’s her brother’s, Richard. And he’s been in prison for five years for the murder of his fiancée. Oh, and the dog’s name is Reggie. Among the oddities of the case is the dog. It was not found on the boat where the murder supposedly took place. In fact, Reggie was reported dead five years ago.

But if Reggie survived being thrown overboard from the boat in the stormy sea when everyone said that he died, then maybe there’s something to the imprisoned man’s story. Maybe Richard really is innocent. Andy is skeptical at first, but what really turns him around is the gunman who opens fire on the New Jersey highway, trying to take out Andy.

That would do it for me, and Andy’s prodigious legal mind is on the case.

What makes an Andy Carpenter novel fun is his eccentricities that go along with his legal shenanigans. He’s got a long-distance relationship with his girlfriend, Lorrie, and sometimes when Andy’s being his cowardly self, I couldn’t help but wonder what she sees in him. Likely it’s Andy propensity to take runs at windmills. Why else would he have initially represented a dog in court. BTW, that’s a fun sequence. Completely unreasonable, but remember: this is a novel, a comfort food novel, and we’ll let lots of things slide in a book like this.

Grover Gardner narrates the audiobook which is how I’ve consumed most of the Rosenfelt books so far. He’s great and add just a little bit extra snark to Andy’s first-person POV story. In fact, hearing Gardner as Andy is pretty much like an old friend telling yet another tall tale.

There are just so many books to read that I know I can’t get to all of them. But David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter series is a gem and I always enjoy reading a new one every year. By the way, he’s written a number of Christmas-themed stories so if you want to start with one of those in the next few months, you’ll enjoy it. That’s how I started.

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