Paterson attorney Andy Carpenter’s well-attested love for dogs (Play Dead, 2007, etc.) moves him to the edge of a weird case of murder, then to its center.
The shooting of pharmaceutical semi-titan Walter Timmerman in a seedy New Jersey neighborhood way outside his orbit has landed the Passaic County justice system with two problems: identifying and convicting his killer, and resolving a custody battle between his wife Diana and his son Steven over Waggy, his Bernese mountain dog. Shortly after Andy’s nemesis, Judge Henry “Hatchet” Henderson, appoints him Waggy’s custodian and legal representative, the case takes an even more unexpected turn when an explosion kills Diana. The police arrest her stepson, apparently ending the custody battle without removing Waggy from Andy’s household or Andy, who volunteers to represent Steven, from the case. As the evidence against Steven mounts—an explosives expert for the Marines who’d been repeatedly disinherited by his father, he was in the neighborhood of both crime scenes minutes before both murders—Andy learns that the custody case won’t die either. Walter’s friend Charles Robinson, a fellow mogul who raises show dogs, files a suit claiming that Walter would’ve wanted him to have Waggy, who’s the subject of both an ongoing lawsuit (albeit with a revolving cast of claimants) and repeated murder attempts. What’s going on here?
The motive depends on a great central concept, and Andy and his crew of regulars are as engaging as ever, but the case itself is an unholy mess of coincidences and multiple malefactors.