Book Review: Bark Of Night by David Rosenfelt
The next novel in David Rosenfelt’s witty, heartfelt mystery series featuring lawyer Andy Carpenter and his faithful golden retriever, Tara.
I have read all five of David Rosenfelt’s latest novels as they’ve been released over the past few years and am continually in awe of just how good his writing continues to be. Bark Of Night may be his best Andy Carpenter novel yet, as I definitely got a little misty at the ending. Ordinarily, these books are clever and funny and quite thrilling, but this was the first time I actually felt moved by the proceedings. Great stuff, Mr Rosenfelt.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Andy Carpenter, our hero, is first and foremost a dog lover. After taking his beloved golden retriever, Tara, to the vet to investigate a lump on her side, he’s chagrined that Dr Dowling, who’d originally assured him that there was nothing to worry about, now wants to have a private conversation in the vet’s office. Carpenter is imagining all sorts of worst-case scenarios, vacillating between sorrow and rage, when he sees the other occupant of the room:
I follow him into the office and see that there is another dog in there, on a leash attached to a drawer handle on his desk. What the hell is going on? Is this a therapy dog designed to ease my pain at what I am going to hear?
The dog is a French bulldog and seems a bit agitated. He can’t be more than twenty-five pounds; if Dr. Dowling thinks this dog will protect him from me, he is sorely mistaken.
Fortunately, Tara is okay. Unfortunately, Dr Dowling has a tricky ethical situation involving the French bulldog, named Truman. Knowing that Carpenter is, besides being a dog lover, a lawyer of some repute, Dr Dowling wants to consult with him on whether the vet can renege on a contract. The previous day, a man going by the name Charlie Henderson had brought in Truman and asked for the dog to be euthanized. Henderson had signed the forms, paid the fee and left. But Dr Dowling couldn’t find anything physically wrong with Truman, so was understandably reluctant to put down a perfectly healthy dog. Dr Dowling did find a chip, however, and discovered that the dog belonged not to any Charlie Henderson but to a man who’d just been murdered, film-maker and totally different guy James Haley. Thus his conundrum, and his need to consult with Carpenter.
The two are in agreement that there’s no need to euthanize Truman, and that the contract seeming to have been undertaken under false pretenses could be considered null and void. But Carpenter knows something more is wrong with this picture, so asks Dr Dowling to hang onto the physical contract until he can ask around a little. What he discovers leads him to come out of retirement for the 19th time in order to defend a man whom he hopes has been wrongfully accused of murder, even as he and his colleagues uncover an international conspiracy with murderous aims.
I super loved the pacing of this novel, as we discover along with Carpenter and crew exactly what they’re getting themselves into. The cleverly unfolding plot makes for tense reading, with lives hanging in the balance as revelations come to the forefront. In particular, a fiendishly difficult situation involving Marcus Clark, the muscle who’s kept Carpenter alive more than once, makes for another, far more complicated, ethical conundrum. The twists are all handled so well, and so satisfyingly, that the pages just breeze by as you race towards the conclusion.
This is also helped by the series’ trademark humor, coming mostly from Andy himself. Sardonic and self-deprecating, though with the occasional flash of vanity, his favored targets for his humor (besides himself) are his opponents in the justice system, and especially opposing counsel. Dylan Campbell is the lawyer assigned to prosecute Andy’s client, Joey Gamble, and it won’t take long for Andy to treat him to some smart alec banter, after Campbell makes the following offer:
“I can give you forty years for Gamble, out in thirty. And that’s way too generous.”
“Stop, I’m starting to get teary-eyed,” I say, dabbing my eyes for effect. “When did you become an old softie?”
“The offer is good for exactly one week, then we go to trial.”
I pretend to fiddle with my watch. “Exactly one week,” I say. “Let me set my alarm.”
“I think we’re done here,” he says.
The rock solid lawyering is only another excellent feature of this book, which might very well be my favorite of the series so far. But they’re all so good that it’s really hard to choose between them! I’m just glad there are so many to enjoy, with hopefully many, many more to come from this prolific author who writes some of the smartest, funniest mysteries being published today.