Monday, February 22, 2021

A Wry Narrator Begins a New Series in Open and Shut by David Rosenfelt

Back in the Christmas season of 2020, infused with a desire to read a Christmas mystery, I went to Houston's Murder by the Book and picked up Dachshund in the Snow by David Rosenfelt. I knew nothing about the author or the book's main character. It is the twentieth (out of twenty-one) novels featuring lawyer and dog lover Andy Carpenter. It is a fun book with good legal twists. I've long ago given up the compelling urge that, when I discover a new-to-me series, I start at the beginning. I read the book that captured my attention and, if I like, I'll read more. Having enjoyed the Christmas book, I was curious how the series began so I read the first installment, Open and Shut.

Andy Carpenter is a New Jersey defense attorney, separated from his wife, Nicole, but romantically involved with his lead investigator and former cop, Laurie. Andy's got an ascerbic style that reminds me of older pulp characters like Donald Lam or Archie Goodwin. He's snarky and funny, often leaving the things he wants to say in little asides while his mouth utters the proper thing. His dad is around, too, and they enjoy going to baseball games. The elder Carpenter, a former prosecutor, urges his son to take up the case of Willie Miller, a man on death row. The odd thing is that the former DA put Willie away.

No sooner does Andy accept his father's request than the old man dies, right there in Yankee Stadium. Andy is heartbroken, of course, but he's still got a case to prepare for and a client to represent. Complicating everything is a pair of things he inherited from his dad. One is a photograph with his father and three other men. Who are they and why was his dad with them? The other is the twenty-two million dollars his dad uttered not a word about but is now Andy's.

The narrative weaves in and out of the courtroom as Andy and his team try to uncover anything that will exonerate Willie while also trying to learn the identity of the men in the photo and the circumstances surrounding it. Something is there for no sooner does Andy start making progress with his case than bad things start to happen, including the return of his estranged wife and a certain ski-masked wearing bad guy who give Andy the business. 

As a dog lover, I have to admit that I wondered if his pooch was going to be threatened or play a role in solving the crime. It's kinda how the book comes across. Happily, Tara, his golden retriever, survived the novel without incident. That might be considered a spoiler, but if you're like me, if bad things happen to a dog in a TV show, movie, or book, it really bothers me. Surprisingly, Tara didn't sniff out the culprit or find the missing clue. 

Andy is a pleasant character that I thoroughly enjoyed. In this, my second Andy Carpenter novel, I know what to expect. Even though I read this one--I listened to the Dachshund in the Snow audiobook--the voice of narrator Grover Gardner was the voice I heard in my head. Rosenfelt writes these books in present tense but still first person which gives the story more urgency. It's not like these events had already occurred. It's like you were Andy himself. 

This book is special for me. During the recent winter storm of February 2021 here in Houston, Open and Shut is the novel I read while the power was out for 58 hours. It got me through and I enjoyed reading about characters who existed in a warmer season. 

My wife is a voracious reader. When she discovers a new-to-her author, she will devour all the books in that series until she has read all the books. My ADHD reading style usually prevents me from doing that, but I happily look forward to reading more installments of the Andy Carpenter series. 


Joe Allegretti said...

I've never read a so-called cozy. Your posts make them seem much more interesting than I had imagined. Any suggestions about where to begin? Thanks.

Scott D. Parker said...


I'm right there with you. I'll admit I, too, thought the majority of cozies were all cutesy stories where a dog would sniff out the bad guy or a cat would do whatever a cat would do and her heroine would bake cupcakes. And that may be true. But so far, three cozies in, that is not the case. Like I mentioned in another post, I subscribed to Murder by the Book's Cozy Corner where I get a cozy book each month for a year. The January book was Bait and Witch by Angela M. Sanders. It wasn't very cutesy but it was paranormal. Now I've ready two of the Andy Carpenter stories and they are frankly more hard-boiled than I expected. Think network TV kind of vibe. The February book I've only just started: Murder at the Beacon Bakeshop by Darci Hannah. There are recipes in the back so this might be more like what we think of when we think of a cozy mystery.

I'll keep a record of all the traditional/cozy mysteries I read this year. But, for now, the Rosenfelt books are my favorites.

Joe Allegretti said...

Thanks. I'm going to try a few myself.