Granted, he has 13 less books under his belt, but at this point Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter series is managing to do something that Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series has failed at — it’s still funny, still smart, and the criminal/suspense elements are as serious as any hard-boiled novel. Sometimes, sure, certain elements of the series — Hike’s depression, Marcus’ size/appetite, Edna’s allergy to work, for example — are overdone, and by being overdone, aren’t as funny as they could be. But Rosenfelt can rein in his impulses and produce a book that balances the whackiness with the grim and result it’s easy to forgive him for indulging his too-silly moments.
MAJOR COMPLAINT: How long has it been since Sam & Andy have song talked? Multiple books, not sure how many, but far, far, far too many books. Sure, part of the upside is Sam being a more critical character, and well-rounded. But it’s too high a price to pay.
This starts off like a typical Andy Carpenter book — a trip to the Tara Foundation, someone wanting Andy to take a job and him not being interested (I actually thought he was wrong in this — Sam was asking, not a stranger), and then Andy getting sucked in anyway — and away we go. Laughs, twists, Andy talking about his dog (and other people’s, too), smart-aleck courtroom antics, and so on. And that’s good enough for me. Sign me up for another 11 of them right now. But this one’s a little special.
The first adult mysteries I ever read were Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason books — I read and reread my public library’s collection I don’t know how many times — and when I could find them, I bought every one I saw. Andy’s more entertaining then Mr. Mason ever was, but his legal strategies aren’t quite up to his level. By this time, I really thought I knew all of Rosenfelt’s tricks (and he plays them well enough I don’t care if I can see them coming), but he pulled the rug out from underneath me in Unleashed. I may have gasped audibly, I’m not sure — I do know my jaw literally dropped.
Without giving too much away, Andy gets a little more into the nitty-gritty of the outside the courthouse action this time, as shown here:
[Marcus] does give me the handgun I’ll be using. He had shown me how to use it in the motel — basically just pointing and pulling the trigger. If I have to use it, I may add in some moaning and whimpering, just to jazz it up.
Perfect Rosenfelt, real, self-deprecating, and just funny.
Unleashed is another successful outing for this series — imagine Janet Evanovich ghostwriting Erle Stanley Gardner.
EVEN MAJOR-ER COMPLAINT: I’ve now worked through the Andy Carpenter series. I have to wait until Rosenfelt finishes the next one. Ugh.