Collared by David Rosenfelt is the 16th book in the Andy Carpenter series.
Oh wow, I was just thinking the other day that I really miss reading Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason books, and then I stumbled across David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter series. Andy Carpenter is the perfect successor to Perry Mason if Perry had a fondness for dogs and a more developed personal life (and if Mr. Gardner wrote with a broader sense of humor—not that his writing isn’t terrific as is).
An independently wealthy attorney based in Paterson, New Jersey, Andy is having a crisis of career. Happily married and parenting, he’s considering whether or not to renew his law license when a dog is left tied up in front of the Tara Foundation. Named for Andy’s favorite dog, the Tara Foundation is an animal rescue and welfare non-profit that Andy runs with his good friends the Millers. It isn’t so surprising that a dog is left for them: what is surprising is that a routine chip scan reveals that this is Cody, the “DNA dog” that went missing in a notorious abduction trial that resulted in the conviction of a local man primarily on dog hair and fiber evidence.
Three years ago, Jill Hickman’s adopted infant son, Dylan, was kidnapped along with Cody while out for a walk with Dylan’s nanny, Teresa Mullins. Teresa was pistol-whipped but had no trouble identifying Keith Wachtel, Jill’s ex, as the kidnapper. Traces of Cody and Dylan were found all over Keith’s car and apartment, and despite neither child nor dog being recovered, Keith was convicted and sent to prison. Teresa left town and Jill grieved, leaving day-to-day operations of the successful DNA testing company she had founded to others.
The reappearance of the dog re-opens the controversy, especially since Jill is friends with Andy’s wife, ex-cop Laurie. Returning Cody to Jill ignites the hope that Dylan may also be alive and well somewhere. But it also casts doubt on Keith’s conviction, forcing Andy and Laurie to tread a fine line between comforting a grieving mother and ensuring justice is served, as Andy takes on Keith as a client.
Collared is the 16th book in the series but the first I’d encountered, and it was wonderfully easy to slip into. Much like the Perry Mason series, you don’t need to know anything about the previous books in order to be entertained, which is possibly a greater accomplishment here, as Andy has a bigger team and a more established personal history. Part of this ease is, I'm sure, due to how laugh-out-loud funny this book is! Here, Andy is trying to get the help of Laurie's friend Cindy Spodek, who heads up the Boston office of the FBI. Laurie initiates the phone call, but Andy has little patience with the tone of their conversation:
After twenty minutes of chitchat about things that are of absolutely no interest to me, I can't take it anymore. How can two people talk for that long without sports ever coming up?
“This is torture,” I say. “Let me talk to her.”
“Andy is unhappy with our conversation,” Laurie says. “He wants to talk to you.”
I take the phone and say, “Cindy, how are you? Okay, are we done with the small talk? We need a favor.”
“Andy, what a treat to chat with you.”
“Right. Just one question and then you can talk to Laurie some more about recipes and shoes and what the bridesmaid dresses for your niece's wedding look like. Can you run a DNA test for us?”
“Sure. The FBI exists to serve you.”
I also love how clean and straightforward the prose is even when discussing the nuances of the law. It's hard to believe that Mr. Rosenfelt has no direct background in the law itself! He certainly writes more convincing legal scenes than some attorneys-turned-authors I've read, including this one on the crapshoot that is jury selection:
Of course, our job is made infinitely more difficult by the fact that almost every potential juror lies. That may be too strong; let's say they either lie or shade the truth. The nature of the lie, or shading, depends totally on whether they want to be selected.
If serving is something they want to avoid, they say what they think we don't want to hear. If they want to serve, then they try to please us with their answers. Very often their lies are misguided, since they are not sophisticated enough to know what we are looking for.
We don't even know what we're looking for, so how could they?
I greatly enjoyed my introduction to Andy Carpenter and his team, and I’m definitely putting the rest of the series on my to-read list. I'll admit that I had some reservations as to how gimmicky the dog angle might be, so I was delighted to find that this is a solid mystery novel that features his canine companions without ever exploiting their presence. Mr. Rosenfelt cares so much for his characters—animal and human—that it's impossible for the reader to not care too. Add to this terrific courtroom drama and solid defense attorney sleuthing, and my Perry Mason craving was satisfied beyond measure!
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Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.
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