This is #22 in the Andy Carpenter crime/legal procedural series that always manages to get us laughing out loud.
Andy Carpenter, the main character, is a “semi-retired” criminal defense attorney in Paterson, New Jersey who hates to work, but keeps taking on new litigation anyway, albeit reluctantly. In this book, he explains that even besides not liking to work, it is fear that is behind Andy’s reluctance to take on clients: “. . . the risk that scares the shit out of me is having an innocent client and not being able to convince a jury of that truth. . . . that’s why I have to be dragged kicking and screaming into a courtroom.” He actually doesn’t have to work; he came into a lot of money from a previous win in court.
Usually a case comes to his attention because of some involvement of a dog. In this book, it is not only a dog that draws him in, but a plea from his friend, former client, and current partner Willie Miller. Willie and his wife Sondra are Andy’s partners in the Tara Foundation, a dog-rescue operation. [In real life, the author founded the Tara Foundation as a home for sick or injured dogs, and the foundation has rescued over 4,000 dogs from shelters.]
Willie’s friend Tony Birch has been accused of the murder of Frank Zimmer, shot in the back of the head, but Willie tells Andy he is sure Tony is innocent. For that matter, Tony’s dog Zoey, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, also seems to believe firmly in Tony’s goodness.
Andy takes on the case but without his usual partner, the lawyer Hike Lynch, who is moving out of town. At Hike’s recommendation, Andy hires Eddie Dowd, a lawyer who is a former football player for the Giants, and who very amusingly heavily peppers his legal analyses with sports analogies.
Tony used to be in a gang, but now is a respected owner of a car repair shop. Nevertheless, he has no alibi, and a strong motive, not only for Zimmer’s killing, but for the other related killings that have happened recently, complicating Andy’s investigation.
As the case goes to trial, Andy remains clueless about how to help Tony, until a sudden insight at the last moment allows him to come up with a defense that just might work, or not….
Evaluation: My husband and I love these books, which, by the way, you don’t really need to read in order to enjoy. This one takes place during the Christmas season (four months long in Andy’s house, much to his chagrin), which mainly serves to allow Andy to inject many jokes about the horrors of ubiquitous Christmas music. Andy’s sarcasm and wit are unfailingly entertaining, as are his relationships with the rest of his team, which includes his ex-cop wife Laurie and their “muscle,” Marcus. For a quick, diverting read that challenges you at the same time, you can’t go wrong with David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter series.
Published by Minotaur Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Publishing Group, 2020