This newest mystery novel by David Rosenfelt is truly a satisfying surprise. Play Dead might be picked up just for the beautiful dog pictured on the cover, but it will be read insatiably for the very involved and tangled mystery that unfolds - courtesy of the lost-but-now-found dog, Reggie.
As is true of the other Andy Carpenter books, the canine companions in this story happily steal the show. After making legal history with this new dog, Andy takes Reggie home to his own retriever, Tara. When he finds out that Reggie might just be the key to unlocking the prison doors for an innocent man, Andy takes the case. In the process, he starts turning over rocks that certain people are dedicated to keeping in place - including the U.S. government.
Parts of the book are slow, and if not for the puzzling underlying story, one might not be convinced to slog through it. Fear not, though; it definitely is worth a little patience. Rosenfelt often uses easily recognizable pop-culture humor to get a smirk out of the audience here and there. Historical and political references play their parts as well. The thriller is engaging, keeping pages turning long past bedtime after a certain point in the story.
While I myself had pieced together bits of the solution, lazy and sarcastic Andy Carpenter was way ahead of me. That is wholly satisfying, when there is a twisting tale of murder, greed and revenge to figure out. Although he is no Hercule Poirot or Nero Wolfe - he maybe is closer to Archie Goodwin - the work-ethically-challenged attorney might just amaze you this time with his uncharacteristic mental leaps and bravery in the face of imminent danger.
Beyond Andy and the dogs, the cast of supporting characters is vast to the point of near confusion. In the end, they do all seem very necessary. From the long-distance sheriff girlfriend to the vivacious sister of the imprisoned man to government officials, the story couldn’t be told without all those voices.
If not for the heart-warming and entertaining plot, this whodunit ought to be picked up for the “author’s acknowledgments” alone. Beyond those first couple of pages, though, it is the sort of book to enjoy with a bowl of ice cream. Better yet, and perhaps more fitting, with a pizza and a beer, and your favorite dog.