Pub Day Repost: The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by David Rosenfelt

The Twelve Dogs of ChristmasThe Twelve Dogs of Christmas

by David Rosenfelt
Series: Andy Carpenter, #15eARC, 336 pg.
Minotaur Books, 2016
Read: August 27, 2016

I’m not a big fan of holiday-themed installments of long-running series (see the Holiday Plum novels or the Silent Night Spenser novel as glaring examples of how bad these can be). But you know I’m a completist — and if I could make it through the aforementioned books, I could handle this. Thankfully, this was pretty light on the Christmas theme (sure, there are trees and gifts and whatnot, but it’s not really that different from your standard Andy Carpenter novel. So, if you think like I do — don’t worry. If you don’t mind/like a little holiday cheer — don’t worry, you’ll find it.

A friend of the Tara Foundation, “Pups” (so-called because she takes care of stray puppies until they’re old enough to adopt out, and might be pickier than Willie when it comes to worthy humans). Is facing eviction because of the large number of puppies she has in her home, and a new neighbor is complaining. Pups isn’t really what you call “friendly,” “polite” or someone who “should be allowed to interact with people.” She’s crabby, opinionated, blunt and has no patience for fools — particularly fools that seem intent on messing with her and her puppies. So Pups has said a few things that make it sound like she’d be happy if the neighbor stopped breathing.

Which, naturally, means that he ends up killed and that someone did a really sloppy frame job on ol’ Pups. The frame job is actually bigger than just this one killing, but you can read that for yourself.

Why prosecutors continue to play hardball with Carpenter clients, I just don’t get. I never understood why Hamilton Burger insisted on taking Perry Mason’s clients to trial, and I can’t understand why New Jersey’s prosecutors don’t just dismiss charges the instant that Carpenter and Hike show up on the other side of a courtroom. But they don’t, which means we get to watch Andy do his thing, fret about his jury deliberation superstitions, and annoy a judge. Who could ask for more?

I really think the mystery, the culprit and the way things unfold in Twelve Dogs is better than the last few books in this series. Everything’s clicking just like it should in these pages. This may be some of the best Marcus material in quite a while — the way that the gang leader acts around and talks about “Mr. Marcus” tells you more about Marcus than anything that Andy could possible tell us. The book would be worth reading just for that.

Minor spoiler: and hopefully once the book is published, this’ll be taken care of. It was a shame to see Andy betting since he and Ricky and just made a promise to stop doing that about a third way through the last book (I’m too lazy to look up page number, an approach Andy would probably endorse) — and Laurie made it clear that he was expected to keep that promise. It’s a minor note that I probably only caught because I read the two passages in the same 24-hour period.

It’d be really hard to rank Carpenter books in terms of happy and/or sweet endings. But if you were bored/ambitious enough to take on that task, I’m pretty sure that this would find itself close to the top. A great addition to one of the more entertaining mystery series around.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Minotaur Books via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

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4 Stars

The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by David Rosenfelt

The Twelve Dogs of ChristmasThe Twelve Dogs of Christmas

by David Rosenfelt
Series: Andy Carpenter, #15

eARC, 336 pg.
Minotaur Books, 2016

Read: August 27, 2016


I’m not a big fan of holiday-themed installments of long-running series (see the Holiday Plum novels or the Silent Night Spenser novel as glaring examples of how bad these can be). But you know I’m a completist — and if I could make it through the aforementioned books, I could handle this. Thankfully, this was pretty light on the Christmas theme (sure, there are trees and gifts and whatnot, but it’s not really that different from your standard Andy Carpenter novel. So, if you think like I do — don’t worry. If you don’t mind/like a little holiday cheer — don’t worry, you’ll find it.

A friend of the Tara Foundation, “Pups” (so-called because she takes care of stray puppies until they’re old enough to adopt out, and might be pickier than Willie when it comes to worthy humans). Is facing eviction because of the large number of puppies she has in her home, and a new neighbor is complaining. Pups isn’t really what you call “friendly,” “polite” or someone who “should be allowed to interact with people.” She’s crabby, opinionated, blunt and has no patience for fools — particularly fools that seem intent on messing with her and her puppies. So Pups has said a few things that make it sound like she’d be happy if the neighbor stopped breathing.

Which, naturally, means that he ends up killed and that someone did a really sloppy frame job on ol’ Pups. The frame job is actually bigger than just this one killing, but you can read that for yourself.

Why prosecutors continue to play hardball with Carpenter clients, I just don’t get. I never understood why Hamilton Burger insisted on taking Perry Mason’s clients to trial, and I can’t understand why New Jersey’s prosecutors don’t just dismiss charges the instant that Carpenter and Hike show up on the other side of a courtroom. But they don’t, which means we get to watch Andy do his thing, fret about his jury deliberation superstitions, and annoy a judge. Who could ask for more?

I really think the mystery, the culprit and the way things unfold in Twelve Dogs is better than the last few books in this series. Everything’s clicking just like it should in these pages. This may be some of the best Marcus material in quite a while — the way that the gang leader acts around and talks about “Mr. Marcus” tells you more about Marcus than anything that Andy could possible tell us. The book would be worth reading just for that.

Minor spoiler: and hopefully once the book is published, this’ll be taken care of. It was a shame to see Andy betting since he and Ricky and just made a promise to stop doing that about a third way through the last book (I’m too lazy to look up page number, an approach Andy would probably endorse) — and Laurie made it clear that he was expected to keep that promise. It’s a minor note that I probably only caught because I read the two passages in the same 24-hour period.

It’d be really hard to rank Carpenter books in terms of happy and/or sweet endings. But if you were bored/ambitious enough to take on that task, I’m pretty sure that this would find itself close to the top. A great addition to one of the more entertaining mystery series around.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Minotaur Books via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

—–

4 Stars

Outfoxed by David Rosenfelt

OutfoxedOutfoxed

by David Rosenfelt
Series: Andy Carpenter, #14

Hardcover, 326 pg.
Minotaur Books, 2016

Read: August 26 – 27, 2016


Last week, I talked about how difficult it is to come up with things to talk about with a long-running series like the Walt Longmire books — at a certain point, series like that hit a good stride and only vary a little in quality or interest for readers. Well, the Andy Carpenter series is even longer and more difficult to write about. I don’t know if I can do much, but I’ll try.

This time out, Andy has inherited a client already in prison, he’s basically supposed to deal with routine things and be ready to help him at the end of his sentence. This is made easier in that the client, Brian Atkins, is working with a dog training program that the Tara Foundation has going with the minimum security prison he’s in.

But then he breaks out of prison and is found leaving the scene of the murder of his estranged wife and his former partner.

But it’s so much bigger than just this (really, the case doesn’t seem as difficult as many of his — finding the actual killer is, but not the case) — Andy’s going to find himself at odds with one of the most dangerous foes he’s tangled with. Speaking of easy, I sort of think that everything ended a bit too easily, a bit too pat — I’m not sure how doing what they did really keeps Andy and his family safe.

I was wondering how Andy and Laurie were going to deal with juggling parenting and these cases, and man, do I hope they come up with better ways than this one. It works once, but not twice. I liked the little bit of fathering we get to see from Andy, though, and Ricky seems like he can be a decent addition to the series.

I don’t want to sound like I’m down on this book — or this series. It was a whole lotta fun, a nice puzzle, and watching the pieces fall into place was pretty satisfying. If you’re not reading these books, you’re missing out.

—–

3.5 Stars

Lessons from Tara by David Rosenfelt

Lessons from TaraLessons from Tara: Life Advice from the World’s Most Brilliant Dog

by David Rosenfelt

Hardcover, 227 pg.
St. Martin’s Press, 2015

Read: January 23 – 25, 2016


One of my resolutions this year was to read more Non-Fiction — I’m going to try for 1 a month, in addition to “whenever I see something that catches my eye.” So, I marched up to the New Release shelf at the Library and started browsing — hope sinking fast, a whole lot of diet, productivity and political books. Ugh. Just not in the mood, then I got to the 600’s and David Rosenfelt’s name jumped out at me. Had to do it, Rosenfelt talking about Tara (the inspiration for Andy Carpenter’s dog) might be cheating a little, but it was good enough.

I was expecting a little Marley & Me-ish type story about the Rosenfelts and Tara. I couldn’t have been more wrong — thankfully (this meant I sniffled far less than I would’ve otherwise). This is a collection of short (no more than 5 pages), mostly humorous, essays about their life and work with Rescue Dogs. Tara is mentioned frequently, as the work they do with Rescue Dogs was inspired by her, but she’s not the focus of this book. It’s their entire menagerie, those they’ve rescued that aren’t part of their pack, the humans they’ve worked with — and even a few they decidedly haven’t — and the lessons Rosenfelt has learned from them.

While every chapter has a joke or two, some are pretty serious — Rosenfelt talks earnestly about the way people treat dogs — particularly older dogs. The focus of The Tara Foundation is on older/senior dogs who aren’t that likely to be adopted from shelters. I know that he’s made me rethink what dogs I look at when we go to adopt next.

Fans of the Andy Carpenter series will be happy to hear that Andy’s voice is Rosenfelt’s — the book at times feels like an Andy Carpenter book without all the muss and fuss of a plot, murder, or trial. I laughed, I chuckled, I learned a thing or two, and I even got misty more than I wanted to. All in all a really strong read. If you’re a dog lover, or just someone who likes to read good things, find some time for this one.

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4 Stars

Who Let The Dog Out? by David Rosenfelt

Who Let The Dog Out?Who Let The Dog Out?

by David Rosenfelt
Series: Andy Carpenter, #13
Hardcover, 324 pg.
Minotaur Books, 2015
Read: September 4 – 5, 2015

As Michael Corleone said in The Godfather, Part Ill, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” The fact that it was the worst movie in the history of movies does not take away from the truth of that statement, as it relates to my legal career.

Poor, beleaguered Andy Carpenter. Dragged, kicking and screaming back into the courtroom to defend someone he really doesn’t care about, but by doing so he gets to investigate a crime he’s really concerned with.

As we all expect, that crime involves a dog.

The Tara Foundation, the dog rescue shelter that Andy runs with his former client, Willie, is broken into. The thief does a very professional job and takes off with one dog. Professional or not, the thief didn’t take into account how devoted Andy and Willie are to these animals and how obsessive they can be about them. It doesn’t take them long at all to track down the dog…and the corpse he’s next to.

Andy wants to know more about the dog, and the dog’s owner who turns out to be a fugitive, suspected of murder. The only way he can keep his foot in this case is to defend the man accused of the killing. He eventually does figure out who kills the thief, but it’s almost accidental — it’s certainly incidental to anything else going on. Just one of the little bits of pleasure this provided was that “ah ha” moment.

During the trial — the stage of many of this series’ highlights — Andy treats us to an amusing clinic on all the ways that a couple of lawyers (and people in other professions) can use the word “frankly,” including all the shades of meaning that word can provide. Like so many of Andy’s lessons, this was worth the ticket price.

Rosenfelt brings us yet another storylines that could summed up as: It looks like a simple crime, but is actually the linchpin to uncovering a major terrorist plot/international crime syndicate (minor spoiler that if you read more than a couple of chapters you’d see for yourself). I’m getting a little sick of these. The terrorist plot, by the way, makes me reconsider the plausibility of a similar plan in Robert B. Parker’s Night Passage. I’d always thought that the weakest part of an otherwise compelling read, seeing it now in light of this book makes me think there was something there. Still, for crying out loud, Mr. Rosenfelt, let major criminal enterprises and terrorist organizations figure out that a trip through Patterson, NJ is asking for trouble. Local conspiracies, okay. But major international conspiracies? You’ve got to stop going to that well so often. Or period.

My other worry about this is Ricky. If you haven’t read this far in the series, you may want to skip the rest of this paragraph. About half of the material around Ricky was cute and fun — just like it was in Hounded. The other half (mostly involving stale sit-com like bits about kids’ sports) teetered on painful. I fear that this series might be like the older comedies who felt compelled to add the cute little kid late in the run (Andy on Family Ties, Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch, Olivia on The Cosby Show, Chrissy on Growing Pains, etc., etc., etc.). If that’s the case, I worry about the future of the series.

Don’t get me wrong — I enjoyed this overall. I can suspend my beefs with this series as it goes on and enjoy Andy’s laziness, his awe of Marcus, Marcus’ awe-inducing self, the hacking seniors, and all the rest. I don’t open up an Andy Carpenter novel expecting to be hanging in suspense, to be chilled, to be challenged in any way; I expect to spend a couple of hours in some pleasant company and sometimes to get a fun puzzle. In that sense Who Let the Dog Out? delivered enough.

—–

3 Stars

Hounded by David Rosenfelt

HoundedHounded

by David Rosenfelt
Series: Andy Carpenter, #12

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published July 22nd 2014 by Minotaur Books
Read: August 22 – 23, 2014

First things first: is this not the cutest cover image ever?

Secondly, I’m not a Today watcher, but my wife is when she’s home sick from work. This mini-rant from Andy was exactly what I’ve been thinking.

I am a creature of habit, and by this time I am always in the den, watching the CBS Morning News. I used to watch the Today Show, until they came up with something called “The Orange Room.” Basically, they go there to tell us what people are tweeting to the Today Show Orange Room. People who would take the time to tweet to the Today Show Orange Room are among the people in the world whose opinions interest me least, so I stopped watching it.*

On to the book itself, which is what I’m supposed to be talking about —

By this time it’s pretty much assumed that Andy will be taking in a dog for the duration of whatever case he takes up (after being forced/tricked into it by this point), and he does so this time — a six year-old Basset Hound named Sebastian. However, this one comes with an accessory Andy’s not used to — an eight year old boy named Ricky.

You see, Andy’s friend Pete Collins was pretty good friends with Ricky’s dad, Danny Diza, and an Uncle-figure to Ricky. And Ricky’s was just murdered, so until the system is able to place Ricky in a permanent home, Pete asks Laurie and Andy to take him in. Why doesn’t Pete do that? Well, he’s going to be arrested for Danny’s murder. Never mind that Pete Collins is about the best that the local Police Department has. Thankfully, he does have super-defense attorney as his best friend.

The number of people in Andy’s social circle who haven’t charged with murder is getting pretty slim at this point. He’s either going to have to make other friends, or do some marketing. Hate to have to see Andy defend Marcus.

Ricky’s presence brings out a side in Laurie we had heretofore not seen, but should’ve known were there. Similar sides in Edna (of all people) and Marcus (!) are brought out as well. Very fun to see the latter two, and heartwarming to see the former. The Ricky-factor alone elevates this particular Carpenter novel.

This case involves a conspiracy, as is almost always the case lately. But this time, it’s on a smaller scale — no worldwide terrorist networks or anything. Just one murder leading to a few others that are trying to be kept quiet by some mysterious and nefarious people. It’s definitely in Andy Carpenter’s wheelhouse, and just the thing his readers are looking for.

Here’s the thing that bugs me, and is a minor spoiler — very minor since I’m describing something that didn’t happen: At no point in time did Andy or Laurie — or some psychologist/counselor they hire — talk to Ricky about the events of the night his father was killed. He was upstairs when it happened. I’m not saying it wouldn’t have been tough, it likely wouldn’t have given Andy much to work with in the defense (I know that because I read Rosenfelt’s narration, Andy didn’t), but still, you’ve got to do it to save Pete’s neck, right?

Other than that, the only beef I have is that I talked myself out of the solution at one point. I was pretty annoyed with myself when Andy figured it out.

Despite the ongoing drought of song-talking between Andy and Sam, this is one of the better entries in the series, and was a lot of fun to read. It featured the typical courtroom antics, banter between Andy and the gang, adoration of Tara, and so on. Not to mention the laugh-out-loudest Marcus joke ever, some welcome character arcs developments, and the most “awww”-inducing closing paragraph that I’ve read in ages.

—–

* To be fair, my wife thinks about as much of The Orange Room as Andy and I do, she just likes the rest of the show’s format.

—–

4 Stars

Unleashed by David Rosenfelt

Unleashed
Unleashed

by David Rosenfelt
Series: Andy Carpenter, #11

Hardcover, 308 p.
Minotaur Books, 2013

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.

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4 Stars