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Leader of the Pack (Andy Carpenter) by David Rosenfelt
Cover Artist: Tstocphoto / Shutterstock Images
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312648046
Date: 17 July 2012 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Andy Carpenter, an independently wealthy lawyer with a conscience, visits his clients who have been incarcerated. One of them is Joey Desimone, son of New Jersey mob boss Carmine Desimone; Joey was convicted of killing his girlfriend, Karen Solarno, and her husband Richard. At Joey's request, Andy takes his golden retriever Tara to visit Joey's senile uncle Nicky Fats as part of a pet therapy program. Nicky mumbles some cryptic words that suggest Richard Solarno was a criminal who was the intended target of someone else's rage, not Joey's. Andy commences devising a new trial for Joey. Meanwhile, mobsters begin dying because someone doesn't want Andy investigating Solarno's murder--an investigation that might uncover a conspiracy involving the wholesale slaughter of thousands of innocent people.

Leader of the Pack, the latest in the Andy Carpenter series, proves that its author David Rosenfelt is still Top Dog when it comes to writing intriguing crime fiction. From its bloody, violent opening to its shocking courtroom denouement, Leader of the Pack has one corpse dropping after another, which keeps the plot moving as swiftly as a tsunami. Not only does this novel have a tremendous amount of shoot-em-up mafia violence, but it also has a lot of courtroom drama. Readers will soon realize Carpenter is still a great lawyer despite his carefree lifestyle and infrequent representation of new clients.

Furthermore, Carpenter is one of the most congenial male protagonists I've read in crime fiction; many others are too hedonistic for my taste. He and his friend Willie Miller, a former client, created the Tara Foundation, a dog rescue operation. Readers will feel stressed, as I did, when the lives of Carpenter and his menagerie of oddball friends are endangered by an extremely evil villain.

I love Carpenter's self-deprecating humor and his ability to ridicule the obvious. For example, he said, ď... The treadmill ... is a device I completely do not understand. I don't like walking anywhere, and in a million years would not walk nowhere." He also has this to say about the safety of Mafiosi: "If they call you 'Don' something, and your first name isn't Donald, you need to watch your back." Another character that makes me laugh is Carpenter's employee Hike. Perpetually pessimistic and gloomy, he warns Joey Desimone that prisoners are often used as guinea pigs for drug testing.

The setting for Leader of the Pack is primarily New Jersey. It seems to be the setting for most of the mob-related crime novels I read. I suppose each state is famous for a special group of people. Tennessee, where I was raised, is known for its rednecks. If you've seen the Wrong Turn horror series, then you know that West Virginia has hillbilly mutant cannibals. Besides Mafiosi, Leader of the Pack has hit men, FBI agents, powerful businessmen, and brilliant courtroom lawyers, such as Andy Carpenter and his nemesis, prosecutor Dylan Campbell. Despite all the vicious, shocking murders and the international intrigue, Leader of the Pack is primarily a mystery. Because the question that fuels the entire novel remains unanswered until nearly the very end: If Joey Desimone didn't shoot Richard and Karen Solarno, then who did? The revelation shocked me.

Old and new fans of David Rosenfelt will enjoy his latest Andy Carpenter novel, Leader of the Pack. One doesn't have to have read the seriesí previous novels. Iíve only read One Dog Night and was immediately hooked. I've also read two of his standalone thrillers, Down to the Wire and On Borrowed Time, and found them similar to the Andy Carpenter novels in that they both had highly imaginative, violent, suspenseful plots. I am definitely looking forward to Rosenfelt's next Andy Carpenter mystery. When it arrives in the book store, I'll be leading the pack of Rosenfelt's fans when Iím running to get my copy.

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