- - Thursday, September 24, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

WHO LET THE DOG OUT: AN ANDY CARPENTER MYSTERY

By David Rosenfelt

Minotaur, $25.99, 336 pages

The only problem with this mystery is there aren’t enough dogs in it, and that is an unusual complaint to make about a Rosenfelt book. But when the jacket of the book is dominated by an unhappy looking doggy struggling to get over a fence, you feel you are entitled to see or read more about the animal in the next hundred pages or so. In this case, David Rosenfelt may have let his readers down because once the animal is rescued it plays a minimal role in a plot that swings between terrorism and smuggled diamonds.

It makes it more disappointing that although the new dog Zoe is paired with Tara, the author’s golden retriever, the two of them get short shrift in terms of attention. Which is rather odd when you consider that Mr. Rosenfelt is one of literature’s dog lovers, He not only runs a rescue foundation for lost golden retrievers, but Tara is clearly the canine love of his life. In this mystery where the dogs compete with the plot, it is sad to say that the most interesting character is Marcus, a monster who is the bodyguard and protector of Andy Carpenter, the leading character.



Marcus is definitely the kind of person to have around on a dark night if you are worried about anything or anyone. He demolishes doors and people, loves classical music on his car radio and his conversation consists of “Yuh.” That is before and after he kills somebody. We assume Marcus likes dogs because Mr. Carpenter likes them and he is very protective of Mr. Carpenter. We also assume that Marcus is well paid for slaughter.

Marcus has competition in the monster field in Aleck, an Eastern European creature who is involved in a terrorist attack brewing in a small town in Maine. It’s an interesting variation on the crime scene yet the potentially devastating terrorism doesn’t get as much attention in the plot as you would expect.

All this comes in the wake of the fact that the rescued dog was found standing next to a mangled corpse, which was probably why it wanted to get over the fence. The dog is unharmed and had nothing to do with the murder, which has terrorist links. But giving the animal a role in the frightening situation would have made the animal and the plot more intriguing. Of course, Mr. Carpenter is on the scene to explain to the police that they are investigating the wrong man for the crime. That takes him to the courthouse in his favorite role as defense lawyer and lets him revert to the wisecracking which really is what he does best. This leads to the appearance of Marcus who kicks off dinner with seven quarter pounders before getting down to his real work. Which of course is the evil Aleck who is no match for Marcus and who, as Andy Carpenter observes, seems to be using Aleck’s head as a pinball.

When Marcus and Aleck are at it, the book certainly picks up speed, and is more of what is expected of Andy Carpenter who is known to be hard-boiled and sardonic as well as soft-hearted. But what makes “Who Let the Dog Out” different is that Andy and his wife Laurie have adopted a nine-year-old orphan, Ricky, and Andy has embraced fatherhood to the point that his dogs may not be happy about it. Instead of the legalese a reader might expect from this kind of investigative procedural, the dialogue tends to lean heavily toward baseball and cooking and Ricky’s development as a son. The young man certainly seems to be offering competition to the divine Tara who used to offer quiet advice to Andy on their walks together and who most likely has no interest in how well Ricky is doing at baseball.

Andy has been domesticated and whether that will appeal to his dog loving readers is yet to be seen.

Muriel Dobbin is a former White House and national political reporter for McClatchy newspapers and the Baltimore Sun.

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