BookBrowse Reviews Play Dead by David Rosenfelt

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Play Dead

by David Rosenfelt

Play Dead by David Rosenfelt X
Play Dead by David Rosenfelt
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  • First Published:
    May 2007, 320 pages

    Paperback:
    Aug 2009, 384 pages

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"No shaggy dog story, this puppy's alive with reliable Rosenfelt wit and heart"

From the book jacket: Few can rival attorney Andy Carpenter's affection for golden retrievers, especially his own beloved Tara. After he astonishes a New Jersey courtroom by successfully appealing another golden's death sentence, Andy discovers that this gentle dog is a key witness to a murder that took place five years before.

Andy pushes the boundaries of the law even further as he struggles to free an innocent man by convincing an incredulous jury to take canine testimony seriously. It will take all the tricks Andy's fertile mind can conceive to get to the bottom of a remarkable chain of impersonations and murder, and save a dog's life—and his own—in the process.

Comment: David Rosenfelt's sixth legal thriller to feature lawyer Andy Carpenter opens with Andy rescuing a 7-year-old golden retriever from the "death chamber" because its owner reported he had been bitten by the dog. In such cases, a dog cannot be put up for adoption, so unless it is reclaimed by its owner it is put down. Andy goes to court and, in a short-lived media-spectacle of a trial, wins the right to keep the dog, and looks forward to taking "Yogi" home to keep his other dog company.

This could be the end of an enjoyable short story but it's just the start of the entertaining mystery that follows, which begins when a woman contacts Andy claiming that the dog belongs to her brother and that "Reggie" is integral to overturning the verdict against her brother who is in jail having been found guilty of killing his fiancée five years before while onboard a boat four miles out at sea on a stormy night.

To account for the fact that Reggie was not on the boat when Richard was taken into custody, the prosecution claimed he must have thrown the dog overboard. That Richard's dog is alive and well (and therefore could not have been thrown overboard 4 miles out to sea) throws a spanner in the prosecution's case and calls into question other "facts" of the case, which Andy gets reopened. From here things hot up with unknown gunmen taking aim at Andy, dissembling FBI agents, dodgy New Jersey customs inspectors and a hint of international intrigue.

Rosenfelt's style is light and witty, putting the reader at ease with a promise of an entertaining plot with minimal bloodshed. It's a shoo-in for animal lovers and those who like their legal thrillers on the cozy side.


David Rosefelt was the former marketing president for Tri-Star Pictures before becoming a writer of novels and screenplays. He describes himself as "a novelist with 32 dogs". In 1995 he and his wife started the Tara Foundation. They have rescued more than 4,000 dogs, many of them Goldens, and found them loving homes. Their own home has become a sanctuary for those dogs that are too old or sick to be wanted by others.

Series Order:
Open and Shut
(2002)
First Degree (2003)
Bury the Lead
(2004)
Sudden Death
(2005)
Dead Center
(2006)
Play Dead
(2007).

This review first ran in the June 25, 2007 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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