Dog Tags by David Rosenfelt (Andy Carpenter, Book 8 )
Read by Grover Gardner
Genre: Legal Dog Thriller
Quick Thoughts: While the overall plot was a bit of a mess, Dog Tags is worth a listen based on its laugh out loud humor and excellent narration.
One of my favorite subgenres of fiction has always been the Courtroom thriller. I am not going to go off on my typical rant about the state of legal thrillers today, I have done it plenty of times in previous reviews. I am just going to reiterate, I like Courtroom Thrillers, not detectives with a Bar card, but books that actually have significant courtroom scenes. I have been reading/listening to David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter series since the first book, Open and Shut. Andy Carpenter is a fun mix of self deprecating humor, and odd but solid legal skills. His typical novels involve him reluctantly taking on a murder case, and doing his legal maneuverings while his team tries to find the real killer. Oh, and typically someone wants Andy dead. This is all pretty typical legal mystery stuff and though often predictable, it makes a nice light read. Recently, starting with his sixth Andy Carpenter novel Play Dead, Rosenfelt adds Dogs into the legal equation. Dogs have always been a big part of the series, but Andy now actually starts doing legal work for dogs, which is an interesting little twist, though often bordering on cutesy. In Dog Tags, Andy is pulled into a murder trial when his cop friend asks him to look into the case of an ex-police dog whose owner, an ex-cop turned thief, has been charged with murder. Of course, eventually he reluctantly decides to defend the accused murderer. Oh, yeah, and someone wants to kill him.
Dog Tags offers a particularly complex plot dealing with international finance, price manipulations, corrupt soldiers and murder. Also, Andy Carpenter spends a lot of time trying to get Milo, the ex-police dog to trust him. You see, Milo has buried potential exonerating evidence, and will only lead someone he trusts to where he hid it. In all honestly, the whole plot come off as a bit convoluted and just strange. Rosenfelt would seem to put a lot into a developing storylines, which would eventually lead nowhere. The whole resolution of the plot seemed to come out of left field, and the increasingly obvious eventual violent confrontation seemed almost misplaced in the context of the investigation. It all had an off balance feel that was off-putting. On the positive side, there were plenty of laugh out loud moments in this book. Andy Carpenter is a character that’s just hard not to like, and his quips and asides are always entertaining. I found myself enjoying Andy’s inner dialogue, while the external situations just seemed to be one bug hot mess. Rosenfelt also made some changes as far as Andy’s team, with one brilliant but quirky attorney leaving and being replaced by another brilliant but quirky attorney. Also, my favorite character, the series own Dues ex Machina, Marcus, was relegated to window dressing and the brunt of the occasional joke. While all in all, this book was a disappointment to me, I still have some faith in the series, and hope the next installment will restore my faith in Andy Carpenter and his strange little team.
Since the beginning of the series, Grover Gardner has been the voice of Andy Carpenter, and with all luck, he will continue that role as long as this series goes on. One thing I have always liked about Gardner is he always seems to pick roles that just perfectly suit him. He brings such authenticity to the role of Andy Carpenter, it would be very hard to hear someone else take on the character. Gardner also has an excellent sense of comic timing, which actually allows many of Andy’s increasingly corny jokes to work. Despite my problems with the overall plot, Gardner made the story, at the very least listenable, I am not sure if I would have made it through reading the print edition, without getting too annoyed. I still will recommend this series for people looking for a fun, light change of pace in their listening schedule, because even when the book itself doesn’t really work, the narration and humor is always there.