The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by David Rosenfelt is the 15th book in the Andy Carpenter series.
With a title like The Twelve Dogs of Christmas, it would seem David Rosenfelt has written a fuzzy, warm Christmas cozy, perfect for curling up next to a fire and losing a few hours with. Wrong. Not only are twelve puppies are in danger of losing their shelter—which some hard-hearted people want closed for a variety of reasons—but a murder has occurred.
Enter Martha Boyer, the “Puppy Lady.” Puppies—particularly newborns—are notoriously difficult to look after in a shelter. So Martha (whose nickname is “Pups”) takes them in and looks after them until they are ready to be adopted, which can often take a long time. This doesn’t bother her; it just means she ends up with a house packed full of adorable little dogs. Plus, Martha has a huge pile of money, which means feeding and providing for the little cuties is hardly an issue. What’s there not to like?
Apparently a lot if puppies aren’t your thing and you’re a neighbor who feels she shouldn’t keep dogs because she doesn’t have the necessary permits. But if you decide to complain, you don’t expect to end up dead—that seems especially extreme by an animal lover’s code of conduct. But that’s what happens.
The murder weapon is found in Martha’s house, and it does’t help that she has been very vocal about the physical harm she would like to administer to her neighbor prior to his untimely demise. Seems like an open-and-shut case. But Martha’s legal representative is Andy Carpenter, a fellow dog lover and head of an investigative team Perry Mason would have been proud to have called his own. He also has a big stash of cash.
I was in this office on Van Houten Street before I inherited a fortune and then added to my bank account with lucrative cases. I haven’t moved for four reasons. One, it just feels like a lot of trouble. Two, I’m comfortable here. Three, moving would make me feel like I was going to continue being an active lawyer and I don’t want to come close to admitting that. And, four, I really like fruit.
The team is all here. In addition to Hike, Laurie, and me, there’s Sam Willis, the computer superhero, when we have a case. Sam can hack into anything, and we frequently use that mostly illegal skill to our advantage.
Then there’s Edna, my less than hard-working assistant. Edna has perfected a new form of retirement: she does pretty much no work at all but continues to draw a weekly check. Nice nonwork if you can get it.
Willie is here also. He has no official role on the team, but he’s always reliable, and, as a martial arts expert, is one the most dangerous people I have ever been around. Of course, that makes him the second most dangerous person on the team.
When it comes to scary and deadly, Marcus Clark makes Willie look like Cinderella. He’s a very competent investigator, but we more often use him for his amazing physical skills. Marcus has literally saved my life on a number of occasions and has nearly scared me to death on others. He and Laurie get along great, so he reports in to her. He’s a man of very few words, none of them intelligible.
Andy Carpenter is a fascinating central figure in that, while he understands the law and does his best to uphold it, he knows when to step outside of the law to get justice for his clients. Just when you think you have got a handle on where this excellent tale is going, David Rosenfelttakes the air out from underneath you, causing you to sideslip into a dark and dangerous alley from which you can only hope everyone can get out of alive. Of course, being a thriller, not everyone does. The action is far from static, leaping from courtroom to seedy bar to rundown apartment to the opulent front rooms of people who are used to getting what they want by buying it or having someone kill for it on their behalf.
I consent to the grabbing, and we agree to meet at a diner on Route 46. It’s late morning but prelunch, so the place is mostly empty. Barnett’s not there when I arrive, although I have no idea what he looks like.
I look around at anyone who might be alone and waiting for me, but unless Barnett is disguised as a sixty-year-old African American woman, then I’ve arrived before him.
It’s twenty minutes and two cups of coffee before he finally arrives. He’s dressed in an expensive suit, which is under an even more expensive overcoat. There’s fur on the collar, but rather than ask, I’m just going to hope it’s not real.
He doesn’t apologize for being late but does offer a handshake and a smile. He pretends to shiver and says, “Cold out there.”
“Are you dreaming of a white Christmas?” I ask.
He shrugs. “I don’t really give a shit; I’m going to be in Hawaii.”
The Twelve Dogs of Christmas is the 15th Andy Carpenter novel, and it has definitely convinced me to go back and read some of the others. Clearly, puppies and Christmastime are not just for cozy mysteries. David Rosenfelt even sticks it to Bing Crosby in this wonderful book—it doesn’t get less Christmasy than that.
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Dirk Robertson is a Scots thriller writer, currently in Virginia where he is promoting literacy and art projects for young gang members. When not writing, tweeting, or blogging on the Mystery Writers of America website, he designs and knits clothes and handbags from recycled rubbish.