Defense attorney Andy Carpenter is wealthy and enjoys his time off with his girlfriend, Laurie, and his golden retriever, Tara. Therefore, he is under-motivated to take on many clients, though he really believes in the cases he works on. One of his clients, Joey Desimone, was convicted of murder six years ago in spite of Andy's best efforts. All the evidence pointed to Joey, so Andy believes the jurors were fair when they gave him a guilty verdict. However, Andy absolutely knows that Joey did not commit the cold-blooded murder of a husband and wife named Richard and Karen Solarno, even if Joey had been having an affair with Karen --- an affair she ended shortly before she died. Although Joey is the son of the infamous Carmine Desimone, the leader of an organized crime family (a fact that also may have contributed to his guilty verdict), he is proud to say he has never joined the family business.
"Author David Rosenfelt manages a unique slant in the crime fiction genre that should appeal to dog lovers, fans of humor, and mystery addicts --- as well as anyone who simply enjoys a terrific page-turner."
Andy enjoys Joey's company and visits him in prison frequently. On his latest visit, Andy takes a break from discussing football with Joey to mention that Laurie has roped him into volunteering Tara as a therapy dog for patients in hospitals (Andy's initial take on Laurie's suggestion: "Í know a little bit about the therapy dog process, and while I think it's a great thing to do, it's especially great for other people to do, with other people's dogs.") He feels indebted to his former client, so when Joey asks Andy to take Tara to his ailing uncle's house, Andy can't quite say no, even though Joey's uncle, known as "Nicky Fats" in the tabloids, is a ruthless killer.
When Andy takes Tara to visit Nicky in Carmine's luxurious home, he finds the elderly man frail and pitiful, guarded by two of Carmine's mobsters. Nicky immediately adores Tara, but his occasional periods of clear-headed conversation is broken by gibberish talk. He also repeatedly asks Andy who he is. Andy reminds Nicky that he is Joey's lawyer. When Nicky asks if Andy lost Joey's court case, Andy admits that he did. Then Nicky says something that will forever change Andy's life, as well as Nicky's own. He announces that murder victim Richard Solarno was dirty and had no honor. Andy can't believe his ears, but when he tries to question Nicky, the elderly man tells him to get out.
What he heard eats away at Andy. Sure, there's a chance that the elderly man was confused, but it sure didn't seem like it when he spoke about Solarno. If Solarno was involved in something illegal, it certainly widens the suspects for his murder. But why wouldn't Nicky or someone else in the Desimone family come forward during Joey's court trial? Andy decides he will browse through Joey's file, but before he can even open it, he finds out that Nicky has died. His death is supposedly a suicide, but Andy does not believe in coincidence, and the timing of his speaking to Andy about Solarno and then suddenly dying seems almost ridiculously coincidental. Now Andy knows he should have checked out Solarno before Joey's trial, even though a police investigation seemed to indicate there was nothing in the murdered man's past that should make him a target. Andy is determined to figure out how to retry Joey's case so his innocent friend can lead a life outside prison.
LEADER OF THE PACK (and every other book in the Andy Carpenter series) is a pure delight, with a suspenseful plot filled with twists and peopled with three-dimensional characters, including the hilariously self-effacing and goodhearted Andy. Author David Rosenfelt manages a unique slant in the crime fiction genre that should appeal to dog lovers, fans of humor, and mystery addicts --- as well as anyone who simply enjoys a terrific page-turner (have I covered every person who reads here? I hope so!).
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on August 2, 2012