Although written with what seems like a lack of interest, and although the characters are nothing special, and although the plot feels recycled, the whodunit Dead Center by David Rosenfelt could easily be recommended and enjoyed by everyone.
Initially, the novelís present tense writing can be difficult to get into for the reader. Time passes in a different way than with past tense writing. We get lost in the truly minute details that don't really add to the story but only serve to distract and bore.
The most dynamic character in the book is one with no dialog or real opinions of her own: the main character's ever-loyal canine companion. The characters come across as canned, with no real life or depth. It was as if the author found pre-made characters and plunked them into the story as needed. They don't live.
The plot involves a lawyer, struggling with being dumped by his girlfriend and a business that is less than exciting or thriving. He is a very typical smart-mouthed, apathetic, cynical fellow. The ex-girlfriend who calls on him for assistance from her charming cheese-infested small town in Wisconsin is portrayed as emotional but driven. A violent double murder has been committed, and a young man from her town stands accused, awaiting trial for a crime he says he didn't commit. Near this poetically perfect town is a religious community that maintains its obsessive need for privacy and seems to be run - from the outside - much like the current daily vision of a cult. The victims are born and raised in this community, and our accused appears to be the guy trying to lure the girls away from their path.
The narrative seems shallow through most of the story. Mister Lawyerly Hero has just the right amount of curiosity and denseness so as to not give anything away to the reader.
The redemption of this book comes towards the end, where the mystery revealed is decidedly simple and very believable but remains a complete surprise until that moment of revelation. We follow the main character through all the twists and turns that a good mystery novel must contain. We are just as thrown off the path as the hero, however, and in that lies the joy of the book.
While it was not a thrilling page turner, it did have a very good surprise ending that satisfies. Good work, Mr. Rosenfelt.