‘Open and Shut – Andy Carpenter #1’ by David Rosenfelt

A clever courtroom drama that pulses with a constant, often witty, self-deprecating humour.

In my head, ‘Open And Shut’ will always carry the subtitle ‘The Case Of The Missing Golden Retriever‘.

I bought the book thinking that it was the first in a series about Andy Carpenter, Defence Attorney and Tara, his Golden Retriever side-kick. for all I know, the rest of the series may live up to that description but the first book ‘Open And Shut’ gives a more prominent role to baseball than it does to Tara the Golden Retriever.

Nevertheless, I read ‘Open And Shut’ with sustained low-key pleasure in a single day. Although it is disappointingly low of canine contributions it’s still a very entertaining book and I will be back for more in the series.

The main appeal of the book for me is the self-deprecating humour and witty one-liners that Andy Carpenter uses to tell the story of his life, his loves, his mistakes and his unconventional courtroom performances. The Andy Carpenter that we meet at the beginning of the story is going through some changes in his life: recently separated from his wife, recently orphaned by the death of his father and recently the recipient of substantial and unexpected inherited wealth. In the midst of all this, Andy is trying to win an unwinnable re-trial of a capital case that his father prosecuted successfully the first time around.

Andy plays the charming raconteur, casting the reader in the role of trusted confidante, and delivers a narrative that kept me smiling and occasionally made me laugh. Andy is not the kind of driven or angst-ridden lawyer that you find in John Grisham’s novels. He has a pragmatic understanding of the law and his role in it and rejects sentimental or sanctimonious views of his work. He is a man who uses humour to distance himself from his emotions and from the stresses of a criminal trial but who never lies to himself about what is really going on.

I was also impressed by the plot of the book, which manages to entwine a my-client-didn’t-do-it-so who-did? mystery, with uncovering secrets in his recently-deceased father’s past. The courtroom ploys are clever and entertaining and the plot twists are well-managed and kept me guessing.

My enjoyment of the book was greatly enhanced by Grover Gardner’s wonderful narration.

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