“Hounded” is the 12th novel in the highly popular Andy Carpenter mystery series by David Rosenfelt, who moved from California to Damariscotta three years ago, bringing with him 25 rescue dogs in three motor homes.
Carpenter is a wise-cracking lawyer in Paterson, New Jersey, and a wealthy one. So, he avoids taking cases unless he has a major interest in someone or something. The case in “Hounded” begins when Carpenter, attending a crossword-puzzle tournament where an employee is competing, gets a call from friend and Paterson police lieutenant Pete Stanton, asking Carpenter to bring his girlfriend, Laurie, to an address where – they don’t yet know – ex-convict Danny Diaz has been killed.
When the couple arrive, Stanton asks them to take Diaz’s son, Ricky, and basset hound home with them, so that Ricky does not have to get involved in the state foster-care system. They agree.
Stanton is arrested the next day and charged with murdering Diaz. The police say Diaz was going to tell police that Stanton was dealing heroin, and a search of Stanton’s home turns up $200,000 worth of the drug.
Carpenter has a case.
He brings in his regular cast of assistants, and they start checking into cases Stanton has handled involving anyone who might have had a reason to frame Stanton. There are plenty, including some connected to organized crime and others involving the death of perfectly healthy people whose relatives believe were murdered, though autopsies point to a heart attack. As Stanton digs, those natural causes become dubious.
Much of the story is told from Andy Carpenter’s perspective, with a sense of urgency and a range of humorous asides. But the storyline is broken with brief sections, written in third person, showing the reader the very events and details that Carpenter is chasing.
One of these sections tells about a research chemist who works for a veterinary pharmaceutical company that has developed a new pet-euthanasia drug. The drug was tested but never marketed, in part because it also worked on humans. When 17 of the pills go missing, the chemist wants to report the theft, but his supervisor convinces him to keep quiet.
Carpenter and his team trace phone records, do interviews, tail people and work to prove Stanton innocent. Meanwhile, he and his girlfriend, both committed to remaining unmarried and childless, bond with Ricky, slowly turning into a family.
There is plenty of dog time written into this book, which could be considered almost a “cozy” mystery. There is some physical action that suits New Jersey and probably wouldn’t appear in a Louise Penny mystery. The case comes to a satisfactory conclusion, with a little bit of a twist that is not wildly unbelievable. This all makes “Hounded” great summer entertainment, a page-turning mystery with a lot of good laughs along the way.
Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at [email protected]