Play Dead – David Rosenfelt, 2007

Oh, how I wanted to love this mystery, centering on a golden retriever who “testifies” in court to get his owner out of jail–in a completely realistic and believable way (ie no Lillian Jackson Braun-style anthropomorphization). It had great reviews so I ordered it for the library and put it on hold for myself; there was a hitch in the ordering so anticipation built for much longer than usual. And… it’s fine, no more. Lawyer Andy Carpenter, the narrator, has a not-particularly-funny wisecrack for every occasion. The story is told in present tense–bleurgh–is that popular simply because it allows authors to avoid the pluperfect? I’ve seldom/never found it to be anything but annoying as a technique. The solution was a little deus-ex-machina, especially because the dog, crucial in the beginning, is shuffled off to the side by the end. The golden rescue operation in the book is based on the author’s real-life Tara Foundation, but it’s only mentioned in passing. I would have loved more dog detail instead of rote courtroom scenes!

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