Although he has written seven previous novels, David Rosenfelt is probably best known as a dog lover who writes. He and his wife started the Tara Foundation, which has rescued more than 4,000 dogs since its inception. Many that cannot be placed because of age or illness end up living with the Rosenfelts, who host an average of 25 to 30 dogs at any given time. Despite this soft spot he has for canines, his writing is anything but soft. Rosenfelt's wisecracking humor, likable good guys and evil baddies are all part of a writing style that makes his books immensely enjoyable.
In the process of planning to defend Milo, the German Shepherd, Andy becomes involved in the intriguing case of Milo's owner, Billy Zimmerman, who lost a leg in an Iraqi explosion. He now sits in jail, having been arrested for murder. The trail leads from Billy to the five other soldiers who were discharged following the incident. It also takes Andy and his team of investigators into some dangerous situations that none of them had anticipated when the case started.
To move things along, Andy puts in a call to his old friend, Cindy Spodek, an FBI agent who often provides him with information that he wouldn't be able to get on his own. The conversation between two smart-alecks goes like this:
“What do you want, Andy?”
“I didn't want anything, but now that you've unfairly attacked me like this, I feel a need to lash back at you.”
“By asking me for information.”
“Exactly. There was an explosion in Iraq last year in which eighteen people, including the Iraqi oil minister and two American businessmen, were killed.”
“Iraq?” she asks. “Now you're becoming an international pain in the a--?”
That's a small sample of the dialogue that peppers the pages with chuckles, along with the fast-paced mystery that must be solved in order for us to get the positive outcome we are all hoping for. One of my favorite characters in DOG TAGS is the self-effacing Eddie Lynch, a brilliant attorney who Andy hires to replace his law partner who recently moved to Bangladesh. Don't ask. Anyway, Andy regards Hike, as Eddie is known, to be kind of nerdish, but grudgingly comes to admire him as he proves his value to the case. Hike has an MBA and a law degree --- one from Harvard and one from Yale. “I'm a walking rivalry...” and he has a delicious sense of humor.
It always amazes me how many truly good writers go widely unknown until they get their 10th or 11th bestseller. David Rosenfelt reminds me a lot of another such author, G.M. Ford. Ford has a great series about a Seattle detective who uses homeless guys as investigators. He captures the flavor of the area and the grit of the streets with humor and gusto. Yet, with six books to his credit, most people would say, “Who?”
If you love a good mystery, enjoy characters who crack wise even when it's not such a good idea, and want to add a new “favorite” author to your list, read DOG TAGS. Then go back to the first in the series, OPEN AND SHUT, and enjoy.
Reviewed by Maggie Harding on December 30, 2010