The mystery novel literally goes to the dogs in Play Dead, the sixth whodunit by David Rosenfelt, but it’s a good thing. Play Dead features Rosenfelt’s recurring character, attorney Andy Carpenter and what seem to be his usual sidekicks. This time around attorney Andy Carpenter, a sucker for golden retrievers, frees a dog from death row and is feline pretty good about it. He discovers the dog might be the only witness to what seemed to be a murder and attempted suicide five years ago. Determined to reunite dog and master, Carpenter decides to reinvestigate the case of customs officer Richard Evans and clear him for the murder of his girlfriend.

This, of course, brings all the bad guys out of the woodwork but Carpenter refuses to play dead even when attempts are made on his life. If Andy Carpenter can figure out who the bad guys are and why they are so interested in keeping Evans in prison, he can figure out how to prove Evans’ innocence. This is not as easy at it seems. Evans worked as a customs officer and he might have been set up so someone else can get his job. If this is the case was it to get illegal stuff in or out of the country? It seems both organized crime -there is no such thing as the Mafia-and the government might have had something to do with as both are showing illegal interest in what Carpenter is up to and both are putting up roadblocks.

Play Dead is a fun mystery novel. Carpenter’s self-deprecating humor and glibness about certain things make it a light, entertaining read. Play Dead is not quite as taut as I usually like my mysteries though the last few chapters certainly make up for that. Karen Evans, Richard’s sister, is a bit too goody two shoes and little miss sunshine to be entirely believable but that is a minor quibble.

I am not familiar with the previous mystery novels written by David Rosenfelt and though I enjoyed Play Dead I am not sure I will make a serious effort to go back and read the earlier ones. Why that is is still a mystery to me especially because should I be at the airport and see a Rosenfelt paperback I will probably pick it up.

Play Dead
David Rosenfelt
Warner Books 2007

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