Barking Up the Right Tree

Dogs Tags: A Novel by David Rosenfelt (Grand Central Publishing, $24.99, 368 pages; also available in a Mass Market Paperback edition for $7.99)

Attorney Andy Carpenter is once again dragged into a criminal defense case that threatens to derail his laid back lifestyle.   This time his client is a former cop who is also a disabled Iraq war veteran named Billy Zimmerman.   But Andy actually sees his most important task as freeing Billy’s dog, Milo, from a cell at the animal shelter where he’s under 24-hour watch by an armed guard.   Milo is also a former badge-wearing cop who aged out of the canine division.   Just because a fellow is too old or disabled doesn’t mean he can’t use his skills in a new, second career.

Both Billy and Milo have turned to robbery to supplement Billy’s pension.   Milo’s police training in disarming suspects has been modified to include snatching valuables from the hands of their mark.   The serious trouble erupts when a simple robbery set-up goes bad and a shady figure is murdered.   Billy stays with the body until the authorities arrive.   Milo has grabbed an envelope and high tailed it away from the scene.   Since witnesses accuse Billy of the  murder, he is whisked off to jail.   The federal government plays a role in the ensuing investigation as do the local authorities.

Andy is drawn in deeper and deeper until everyone in his immediate life is involved in freeing Milo and Billy.   Helping Andy with the case becomes life-threatening for each member of the group.   The story can easily be dismissed as a light-weight mystery full of action and intrigue, but the reader will also come to appreciate the bonds of loyalty and friendship between the attorney, his investigator and the others in the group.   They form a family of sorts not unlike the ones that come together in tamer workplaces.

Author Rosenfelt is a master at understatement and the not-so-obvious.   He uses sharp wit and sarcasm to infuse his story with sentiment.   He also introduces new characters to keep the story fresh.   As is the case with his most recent Andy Carpenter mystery, New Tricks, he deftly avoids boring repetition to bring the reader on board.   These two books can easily stand alone.

There are multiple ruthless killings, savage attacks on kindly folks and an elusive villain who is known as “M.”   The reader will not suffer the pain inflicted by an author like Nelson De Mille who seems nearly sadistic in his long, drawn out scenes of torture and killing.   Rosenfelt knows his audience and he resists harming them unnecessarily just for the sake of shock value.

Dog Tags is the type of book to take to work in order to enjoy reading it during the lunch hour and/or quiet break periods.  

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   “Laugh-out-loud humor mixed with suspense.”   Associated Press

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