Book Review: Best in Snow by David Rosenfelt
Best in Snow by David Rosenfelt is a Christmas mystery and the 24th book in the Andy Carpenter series, where the lawyer and his golden retriever, Tara, are on the beat after a body turns up in the snow and a journalist is the prime suspect.
Twenty-four books in and the Andy Carpenter Mystery series is still going strong! Andy, our reluctant defense attorney, is busy getting ready for his wife Laurie’s extended Christmas season, mostly by walking the dogs and staying out of her way. It’s on one of these walks that his favorite pooch, Tara, makes a grisly discovery. Not only has Tara found a dead body buried beneath an unexpected snowfall but the corpse happens to be that of Paterson, New Jersey’s mayor, Alex Oliva.
Andy figures that reporting the find and giving his witness statement will be the extent of his involvement with the case until young reporter Bobby Nash falls under suspicion for the mayor’s murder. Bobby was a protege of Andy’s good friend Vince Sanders, editor of the local paper, and had in fact been working for Vince when he broke the story of Mayor Oliva accepting illegal donations from prominent businessman Richard Minchner. After Bobby’s proof was shown to have been falsified, followed by his source denying any association with the allegations, Bobby was forced to leave the paper.
Vince still believes in his former employee and knows for a fact that the younger man would never have murdered anyone. So he turns to Andy for help. Andy, of course, demurs, offering instead:
“I can recommend someone really good.”
“Not as good as you. Come on, Andy, you owe me one.”
“I owe you one? From when?” One major favor has been done in our relationship, a long time ago, and it was done by me for Vince.
“Let me put it another way. If you ever needed me, I would be there for you, and then you would owe me one. It’s not my fault you’ve never needed me. You have only yourself to blame.”
And so, Andy finds himself in the position of representing Bobby, who is shortly thereafter found unconscious in his crashed car some distance from the crime scene, seriously impaired from the drugs and alcohol in his bloodstream. Bobby doesn’t remember a thing beyond having gone out for a few drinks the night the mayor died but is pretty certain that he didn’t kill the guy.
Experienced trial lawyer Andy is hardly going to believe in a person’s innocence just on their say so, especially with all the evidence mounting up against his new client. But as the body count rises and more murders are attempted, he becomes more convinced not only in Bobby’s blamelessness but also in the importance of finding the real killer before the entirety of Paterson is thrown into chaos or worse. To do this, Andy and his team will have to delve into a seedy world of politics and criminal organizations to unravel a conspiracy long in the making while presenting their best defense for a client who, on the face of it, looks incredibly guilty.
And that’s one of the biggest charms of this series, how Andy and his crew cleverly investigate to solve complex murders while also battling in the courtroom to convince a jury of their client’s innocence. The puzzles of David Rosenfelt’s fast-paced, twisty plots are always a delightful mental exercise, even as the dog- and humanity-loving hearts of the novels shine through. In this latest installment, we also get to see a little more of why Andy hates his job so much, as he evaluates how he feels once he’s finished closing arguments.
I head back to the defense table; my legs feel like they are made of concrete. This is the worst feeling of all, and I experience it in every case.
It’s over. It’s done. There is no longer anything I can do; it is totally out of my hands.
It is a lack of control and fear that I did not do enough that literally leaves me nauseous.
This is why I have been trying to retire.
But there’s no rest for the wicked awesome, and Andy will have to put off giving up his license for another book as he seeks to keep an innocent man out of prison. Filled with the series’ trademark humor and the idiosyncratic cast of characters fans like me have come to know and love, Best in Snow is another terrific mystery showcasing the smarts and self-deprecating wit of the best criminal defense attorney any innocent person accused of a crime could ever want in their corner. The world needs more Andy Carpenters, but in lieu, another great Andy Carpenter tale will have to do.