I'm not a big fan of holiday-themed installments of long-running series (see the Holiday Plum novels or the Silent Night Spenser novel as glaring examples of how bad these can be). But you know I'm a completist -- and if I could make it through the aforementioned books, I could handle this. Thankfully, this was pretty light on the Christmas theme (sure, there are trees and gifts and whatnot, but it's not really that different from your standard Andy Carpenter novel. So, if you think like I do -- don't worry. If you don't mind/like a little holiday cheer -- don't worry, you'll find it.
A friend of the Tara Foundation, "Pups" (so-called because she takes care of stray puppies until they're old enough to adopt out, and might be pickier than Willie when it comes to worthy humans). Is facing eviction because of the large number of puppies she has in her home, and a new neighbor is complaining. Pups isn't really what you call "friendly," "polite" or someone who "should be allowed to interact with people." She's crabby, opinionated, blunt and has no patience for fools -- particularly fools that seem intent on messing with her and her puppies. So Pups has said a few things that make it sound like she'd be happy if the neighbor stopped breathing.
Which, naturally, means that he ends up killed and that someone did a really sloppy frame job on ol' Pups. The frame job is actually bigger than just this one killing, but you can read that for yourself.
Why prosecutors continue to play hardball with Carpenter clients, I just don't get. I never understood why Hamilton Burger insisted on taking Perry Mason's clients to trial, and I can't understand why New Jersey's prosecutors don't just dismiss charges the instant that Carpenter and Hike show up on the other side of a courtroom. But they don't, which means we get to watch Andy do his thing, fret about his jury deliberation superstitions, and annoy a judge. Who could ask for more?
I really think the mystery, the culprit and the way things unfold in Twelve Dogs is better than the last few books in this series. Everything's clicking just like it should in these pages. This may be some of the best Marcus material in quite a while -- the way that the gang leader acts around and talks about "Mr. Marcus" tells you more about Marcus than anything that Andy could possible tell us. The book would be worth reading just for that.
Minor spoiler: and hopefully once the book is published, this'll be taken care of. It was a shame to see Andy betting since he and Ricky and just made a promise to stop doing that about a third way through the last book (I'm too lazy to look up page number, an approach Andy would probably endorse) -- and Laurie made it clear that he was expected to keep that promise. It's a minor note that I probably only caught because I read the two passages in the same 24-hour period.
It'd be really hard to rank Carpenter books in terms of happy and/or sweet endings. But if you were bored/ambitious enough to take on that task, I'm pretty sure that this would find itself close to the top. A great addition to one of the more entertaining mystery series around.
Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Minotaur Books via NetGalley in exchange for this post -- thanks to both for this.