“Bark of Night” by David Rosenfelt is book nineteen in the series featuring Andy Carpenter and that wonderful golden retriever Tara. Regular readers will find everything they love about Tara and the gang, and new readers will jump right into this offbeat yet compelling story, wondering how they missed the previous books. The book opens with a shadowy, clandestine meeting in a hotel at the Tampa airport. The identities are fake, but the danger and intrigue are not.
The action changes to the familiar first-person narrative by Andy Carpenter, reluctant defense attorney, and pro-active owner of Tara Foundation, a dog rescue group. Carpenter lives in Paterson, New Jersey with wife and former police officer Laurie, son Ricky (now 10 and away at summer camp), dogs Tara and Sebastian, and his TV remotes. He loves Patterson, but is realistic about where he lives. “If I were to look deeply into Paterson’s history, I imagine it was actually discovered by a settler named Urban Blight.” He does not especially want to take on legal work, but he is good at what he does; just ask him. “He actually thinks another lawyer might be as good as me. That in itself might make him a candidate for an insanity defense.”
When not making the world safe for dogs everywhere, he hangs out at Charlie’s Sports Bar with friends Vince Sanders, editor of the local newspaper, and Pete Stanton, captain of the Homicide Division of the Paterson Police Force. They tolerate Carpenter’s unconventional demands because he picks up the food and drink tab. When he reluctantly has to work, he relies on Sam Willis, accountant and resident computer hacker, Edna, puzzle champion and office manager, Hike Lynch, the other lawyer in the firm, and Marcus Clark, who scares people, especially Carpenter.
Carpenter is asked to find a home for Truman, a French bulldog who had been abandoned at the veterinarian’s office; of course, he agrees, “We’ll easily find him a good home.” However, there are complications, big complications. The person who dropped the dog at the vet was not the owner, per the chip, and the registered owner, James Haley, a documentary filmmaker from Toledo, Ohio, had been murdered a few nights previously. Carpenter reports all of this to Stanton.
“Where’s the dog now?” “You mean my client?” I ask. “He’s in my protective custody.” “He’s evidence in the case,” Pete says. “We’re willing to come in and talk anytime. In the meantime, I’ll send a copy of his paw prints to forensics.” Now “lawyer” Carpenter has a client and a crime to solve.
The companion part of the story unfolds with deception, cunning, and viciousness. A “hit man” murdered James Haley for a hundred grand in cash, fifty of it upfront, and delivered the computer, the video equipment, and the memory card from the camera to a mob enforcer. Despite having just killed the dog’s owner, he did not kill the dog, and took him to the vet instead. Naturally, there are more murders of people to come, many more.
Carpenter continues his commentary, talking to readers in his usual sarcastic, self-deprecating way, all the while evaluating the problems at hand, and slyly manipulating his cadre of colorful characters to do whatever he wants them to do while keeping everyone safe and fending off the bad guys. Andy Carpenter has an unconventional attitude about life and an uncanny ability to come to the brink of disaster and still live happily after with kids, dogs, and reformed criminals. I received a copy of “Bark of Night” from David Rosenfelt, Minotaur Books, and Macmillan Corporation. Rosenfelt’s books are always refreshing; Andy Carpenter never just does the same old things with new names. Every book is compelling, interesting, and above all funny. I recommend the entire series