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by David Rosenfelt
Minotaur, September 2021
304 pages
ISBN: 1250257174

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Andy Carpenter's normal evening dog walk turns eventful when Tara, Andy's Golden Retriever, digs something out of the snow. The something turns out to be the body of the mayor of Patterson, New Jersey. I was going to pan this novel, until I realized: readers who are from US states in the northeast are more likely to get the sly ribbings, in-jokes, and smart-aleck humor that decorate the pages.

Dramatis personae: Andy Carpenter, smart-aleck lawyer; Laurie Collins, ex-cop and Andy’s wife; Marcus Clark, Andy's enforcer; Alex Olivia, mayor of Patterson, New Jersey, but not for long; Vince Saunders, a wise-guy newspaper editor with a heart of gold; Bobby Nash, young journalist hired by Saunders who is set up to take a fall by the Bad Guys; the Bad Guys, who are, of course, the Mob; Richard Minchner, businessman, and his company, RMD Enterprises; James Prichett, Minchner’s invaluable administrative assistant, and actually a plant; Pete Stanton, homicide investigator for the Patterson PD; the Bubelah Brigade, a group of elder citizens and people of the book who search cell-phone records to bust the Bad Guys; Corey Davis, Patterson Police K-9 unit, and his sidekick, Simon Garfunkel, a German Shepherd; dogs, Bad Guys, lawyers, politicians.

Best in Snow gets rolling when Vince Carpenter, editor of the local rag, feels that freelance journalist Bobby Nash has been set up for the murder of the mayor. Saunders calls Andy Carpenter and begs him to take on an investigation to prove Bobby innocent. The investigation won’t be easy: Nash's car has the mayor’s blood in it; the car was in the mayor’s driveway, Bobby has wrecked the car, and he lies injured in the hospital. Saunders knows that Nash isn't the type of man to commit murder. Carpenter's team of investigators, wise-cracking all the way, must look beneath the obvious to prove Nash innocent.

As the action—snowballs—as the evidence leads to a business with the catch-all name of RMD Enterprises, campaign contributions during an election year from said business, and the publicity campaign manager for the mayoral race. There’s nothing for it but to call in the Bubelah Brigade and sic'em on public and not-so-public records. In the hospital, Bobby suddenly takes a turn for the worse. Meanwhile the wheels of justice are turning, and Nash’s court date is set. Andy Carpenter and his crew, now believing in Nash's innocence, has to generate enough evidence for the jury to say "not guilty."

The prose of Best in Snow is nothing to write home about. That, and the title is a pun on an award offered in dog shows. Best in Snow is not one of those tales of man and beast, dedicated to one another, faithfully working together to save the world from Bad Guys. The dogs barely appear as pets one must take for a walk. It's not that kind of novel! It is about people and power and a big city where one cultivates cynicism with a veneer is snide humor in order to keep one’s balance.

§ C. Downs is a retired professor of American Literature who from time to time amuses herself with the well-turned whodunit.

Reviewed by C. Downs, September 2021

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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