Andy Carpenter and I have a lot in common, although I have one bone to pick with him. He shares his life with a beautiful golden retriever named Tara, whom he describes as the greatest creature on Earth. This, of course, is a falsehood, seeing as it was my privilege to have spent nearly 12 years with the REAL greatest creature on Earth, Willow The Best Dog There Was (2009-2021).
Tara, of course, is fictional, having sprung from the mind of author David Rosenfelt, but she is also based on a real golden retriever named Tara who Rosenfelt describes with similar language. Rosenfelt may be forgiven his lack of understanding, since he never met Willow.
I haven’t completely recovered from the loss of Willow. She and I had one of those bonds you hear about, and snapping that bond has been as traumatic as one might expect. Red always joked that when the time came, she would have to euthanize me along with Willow because I would be so devastated. I’m glad she didn’t have to follow through on that, but yes, devastation is a good word to describe it.
But I digress. Beyond our love for the greatest creature on the planet, Andy Carpenter and I both grew up in New Jersey. If our family hadn’t moved from one side of the state to the other when I was 10, I would have attended Passaic Valley High School just outside Paterson, where Andy and his wife, Laurie Collins, live and work. When Carpenter talks about the morning traffic on Route 46, I know what he’s talking about, and even though I moved away 50 years ago, I can still see many of the locations in the Carpenter books in my head.
I missed Willow so much that when I realized Tara’s resemblance to her, I started binge-reading the Andy Carpenter series; sometime this week I will finish the 24th and will have to wait until July to hear the 25th because I’m caught up now. I’ve done it all via audiobooks, where Grover Gardner does an amazing job bringing Rosenfelt’s characters to life.
I’ve also read both of Rosenfelt’s non-fiction books about their house full of dogs (as many as 37 at a time) and the adventure of moving them all from California to Maine. And I’ve read the first of the new K Team spin-off books and am on the library waiting list for the second.
This is all thanks to my cousin Christine, who several years ago sent us an Andy Carpenter book knowing that I loved a certain golden retriever, figuring I’d be drawn to a character who loved a certain golden retriever. Red, who doesn’t read books as voraciously as I, loved the book, but for some reason I didn’t pick it until after we lost a certain golden retriever.
My cousin was right, of course. Besides the dog and Jersey connections, Carpenter and I are both sedentary types who want to retire but keep getting drawn back into the job. In his case he’s a defense attorney who keeps bumping into sympathetic characters who have been wrongly accused of murder. How can he say no? Actually, if I had inherited millions as Andy did, I might be inclined to say “no” more often than he does, but millions have not dropped into my bank account, so I can’t say for sure.
The real killer is always someone who is not quite whom we expected, and the final act often involves a potentially unpleasant encounter to unveil the culprit. Between Carpenter’s caustic personality and Gardner’s brilliant performances, Rosenfelt delivers an entertaining tale pretty much every time. Twenty-four thumbs up from me — or should I say paws up?