Review

Play Dead

by David Rosenfelt

Many
years ago I attended a legal education program where a well-known
evidence professor presented a hypothetical case involving a dog
who was called to court to give evidence. It was delivered in a
humorous and entertaining fashion, and the presentation helped
drive home an important legal point that I have remembered for more
than 20 years. David Rosenfelt, the creator of a wonderful series
of courtroom mystery novels with attorney Andy Carpenter, may have
heard that same evidence hypothetical at some point in his career.
His newest novel, PLAY DEAD, opens with a similar legal
conundrum.

Andy comes to the rescue of a golden retriever, seemingly abandoned
by his owner. He is about to be put to sleep by the local dog
pound, but Andy goes to court to win a reprieve for him. In the
ensuing news coverage, a witness recognizes the dog for an
extremely significant reason. Because the animal is alive, her
brother, who is serving a life sentence for murder, cannot be
guilty of the crime for which he is imprisoned. Thus begins
Andy’s newest legal battle, an ingenious and entertaining
adventure that followers of the series have grown to expect.

Several years ago Andy inherited a large fortune, and the money
gives him the opportunity to select a limited number of clients and
cases. Large retainers from wealthy criminals are not his priority;
obtaining real justice for the wrongly convicted is his
reward.

Andy’s client in PLAY DEAD is Richard Evans, convicted of the
murder of his fiancée and now serving a life sentence. The
golden retriever that Andy rescues from imminent death turns out to
be Evans’s dog. At the time of the killing the dog was four
miles out in the Atlantic Ocean. He was presumed to have drowned,
but that he now appears alive raises questions about the
conviction. First Andy must win a new trial for Evans and then has
to convince a second jury that Evans is not guilty.

Meanwhile, Andy is still balancing a long-distance romantic
relationship with Laurie Collins, his former investigator who now
works in Wisconsin. His loyal office crew and New Jersey cronies
are all part of the mix, which makes these books such enjoyable
reading.

Rosenfelt has an excellent grasp of the law and the legal process.
He paints true portraits of prosecutors and judges, and his
courtroom scenes have remarkable vitality. True, Andy sometimes
gets away with some shenanigans that might not occur in a real
courtroom, but these are his cases and he is the leading man. Under
those circumstances, readers can cut him just a tiny bit of
slack.

Andy’s investigation into the Evans case unearths some very
suspicious and potentially lethal evidence. It also portends danger
for him. Early on in his investigation, Andy is the victim of a
shooting attack on the highway. His assailants are killed, but
their deaths raise more questions than answers. Throughout PLAY
DEAD, many of the important characters are not who they appear to
be. Indeed, Andy can only be certain of Reggie, the golden
retriever whose life he has spared. Even the dog’s life
becomes endangered by those who try to dissuade Andy from his quest
for justice.

Rosenfelt has a successful formula for what hopefully will be a
long series of enjoyable and entertaining courtroom novels. The
American legal system provides the author with substantial fodder
for countless new adventures for Andy and his associates. His
writing ability seems to be limitless, and readers can await with
wonderful anticipation the next adventure of Andy Carpenter’s
legal career.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on January 18, 2011

Play Dead
by David Rosenfelt

  • Publication Date: January 18, 2011
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: pages
  • Publisher:
  • ISBN-10:
  • ISBN-13: 9780446614528