(Reviewed by Eleanor Bukowsky JUN 4, 2006)
“Almost since the day I arrived here, things have happened that seem to defy logic. As is my style, I have been trying to make logical sense out of them, to figure out the ‘why’ behind the actions of these people. I’m being overly kind to myself to say that I’ve had very little success.”
In David Rosenfelt's Dead Center, Andy Carpenter and his beloved dog, Tara, leave their comfort zone in Paterson, New Jersey to spend time in Findlay, Wisconsin. Andy has been licking his wounds after the love of his life, Laurie Collins, dumped him to return to her hometown of Findlay, where she has become acting Chief of Police. For the last few months, Andy has been hanging out with Tara, appearing on cable television as a legal expert, and spending time at a dog rescue operation that he runs with his partner, Willie. He also loves to hang out with his immature friends at a sports bar, sit on his couch and watch any game that happens to be on, and place the occasional bet with his bookie. In short, he has a rather pathetic and predictable life.
Laurie changes all that when she asks Andy to come to Wisconsin to defend Jeremy Davidson, a young man accused of brutally slaying two coeds. Although Laurie is technically on the side of the prosecution, she is convinced that Jeremy is innocent. After much soul-searching, Andy agrees to take the case.
David Rosenfelt has a reputation for seamlessly combining hilarious and sarcastic humor with engrossing mysteries. Andy is an appealing protagonist and narrator, a self-deprecating nebbish, and a compassionate and quick-witted criminal defense attorney. He is New Jersey's answer to William Berhhardt's Tulsa-based Ben Kincaid. Since Andy and Laurie make such a perfect couple, the reader roots for them to rekindle their romance.
The mystery, which is engrossing enough, revolves around a town that is inhabited by a religious cult whose leader discourages dissent. Is it possible that the members of this cult would resort to violence to protect their secrets? After Andy's arrival in Wisconsin, there are additional unexplained deaths and a suicide that may have been staged. Andy uses his considerable legal expertise to try to exonerate Jeremy, and he also plays amateur sleuth. Along with his inarticulate but effective bodyguard, the formidable Marcus Clark, our hero lays his life on the line to solve the puzzle before any more corpses pile up. Dead Center is a mildly entertaining novel with the usual red herrings and surprises, but it lacks some of the flavor, bite, and originality of Rosenfelt’s earlier books.
- Amazon readers rating: from 30 reviews
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(Reviewed by Eleanor Bukowsky JUL 15, 2005)
“If my mother were alive, she would say, ‘Whatever happens, it’s all for the best.’ I never believed it when she used to say it, and I don’t believe it now.”
David Rosenfelt's Sudden Death features Andy Carpenter, a wisecracking defense attorney who has taken on a high profile case. Kenny Schilling, a star running back for the New York Giants, has barricaded himself in his house with the dead body of another football player, Troy Preston. Kenny claims that someone else killed Troy and left him to take the rap. After arranging for Kenny's surrender, Andy agrees to defend him, and the battle is straight uphill.
Andy is the first person narrator and he is a sweet and funny guy, similar to Ben Kincaid in the early William Bernhardt books. Unlike Ben, Andy is a multimillionaire who doesn't need to work for a living. Andy's lover, Laurie, is also his investigator, but she is seriously thinking about returning to the small Wisconsin town where she grew up. Andy loves his home in Paterson, New Jersey, and moving to Wisconsin is not an option for him. He spends much of the book worrying that he will lose Laurie.
Sudden Death features nasty mobsters, courtroom wrangling, media hype, and, on every page, Andy's one-liners. Rosenfelt has a gift for spare writing and deft characterization. Marcus, Andy's fierce bodyguard, who grunts rather than speaks, can frighten the most hardened criminal with his stony stare. Tara, Andy's beloved golden retriever, would be the one true love of his life were it not for Laurie. Edna, Andy's secretary, sidles in to work when she feels like it; her true passion is crossword puzzles. "Edna is to crossword puzzles what Gretzky was to hockey."
As the case against Kenny becomes more watertight, Andy digs into his bag of tricks to cast suspicion on some nasty New Jersey gangland types. This would be a brilliant idea, except for the fact that Andy is quickly targeted for death. Rosenfelt's ending is both far-fetched and predictable, but Sudden Death is so entertaining that it scarcely matters. David Rosenfelt's easygoing and amusing writing style makes this novel a pleasure to read.
- Amazon readers rating: from 20 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Open and Shut (May 2002)
- First Degree (June 2003)
- Bury the Lead (June 2004)
- Sudden Death (May 2005)
- Dead Center (May 2006)
- Play Dead (May 2007)
- New Tricks (August 2009)
- Dog Tags (August 2010)
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- Official website for David Rosenfelt
- The Mystery Reader of Open and Shut
- WhoDunnit review of Bury the Lead
- BookReporter.com review of Sudden Death
- WhoDunnit review of Dead Center
- The Mystery Site review of Play Dead
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About the Author:
David Rosenfelt grew up in a normal family in Paterson, New Jersey. After graduating from NYU, he worked in the movie business, having been hired by his uncle who was the President of United Artists. He climbed the executive ladder, culminating in becoming President of Marketing for Tri-Star Pictures.
He left the movie business a number of years ago to try his hand at writing; wrote and sold a bunch of feature films, none of which ever came close to being actually filmed, and then a bunch of TV movies, some of which actually made it to the small screen.
He and his wife also started the Tara Foundation in 1995 based in West L.A. California and have rescued about 4,000 dogs finding them loving homes. Their own home is a sanctuary for the dogs that are too sickly or old to be adopted. They are apt to be surrounded by over 30 dogs at any one time.
David and his wife have two children and their dogs in live in Southern California.