W.B.’s Book Report: Holy Chow

In the months since we lost Willow The Best Dog There Is™, I was comforted and entertained by the stories of Andy Carpenter by David Rosenfelt. Carpenter is a defense attorney who loves dogs, most especially Tara, a golden retriever he believes to be the best dog ever, mainly because he never met Willow, of course. Hearing stories that include a beloved retriever filled the void to a certain extent.

For the first five novels or so, the series was popular but not spectacularly so. Then, with the sixth novel, Play Dead, they put a dog on the cover. Sales skyrocketed, so they started putting dogs on all the covers, and Rosenfelt started giving all of the Carpenter novels a dog-themed title: New Tricks, Leader of the Pack, Unleashed, and Christmas stories with names like Deck the Hounds. The rest is history. (Hat tip to cousin Christine, who knew of Willow and my love of murder mysteries and recognized the harmonic convergence, and made sure I found out about this series.)

This week the 25th Andy Carpenter novel, Holy Chow, was released, and I have reached the point where I had to have it, or more precisely I had to hear the audiobook because Grover Gardner’s narration is almost as much a part of my enjoyment as Rosenfelt’s words.

By now it’s a familiar story. Andy, who is independently wealthy as a result of a surprise inheritance from way back in the first novel, is enjoying his retirement from the rigors of the lawyer life when he encounters a person wrongly accused of murder. There’s almost always a dog involved somehow; did I mention Andy loves dogs? He drags himself out of retirement and signs on as the accused’s attorney.

It turns out there’s some sort of conspiracy afoot, and this murder was part of the pattern. Andy puts his team to work trying to unravel the mystery, which puts him in the crosshairs, and other murder happens to cover up the plot and/or warn Andy to back off. They still haven’t worked it all out when the trial starts, and they’re still uncovering facts as testimony gets underway.

Sometime around when the verdict is due, it all falls into place — and the real story is not quite what we expected all along.

I’m only halfway through Holy Chow as I write this, but I can safely assume that’s approximately where we’re going. The names and circumstances are different with each novel, but that’s the pattern. Please understand I’m not complaining. These stories are perfect summer fare, like comfort food.

If you like cozy mystery thrillers seasoned with a tremendous love for our canine companions, you can’t go wrong with an Andy Carpenter novel. You can read them in any order; they’re all self-contained stories and Rosenfelt explains any background you need without spoilers. I don’t think I read the first in the series, Open and Shut, until I’d already devoured a half-dozen of them.

Rosenfelt has promised his readers Tara, who is based on his own beloved golden retriever and inspired the real-life Tara Foundation rescue organization, will never die. That is perhaps the most comforting part of the whole series.

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