PERSONAL: Born in Patterson, NJ; married; two children. Education: New York University, graduated.
ADDRESSES: Home—CA. E-mail—[email protected] rosenfelt.com.
CAREER: Writer. Tri-Star Pictures, former president of marketing; Tara Foundation (dog rescue organization), cofounder, with wife, 1995.
AWARDS, HONORS: Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination, Mystery Writers of America, 2003, for Open and Shut.
Open and Shut, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 2002.
First Degree, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Bury the Lead, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 2004.
Sudden Death, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 2005.
Dead Center, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 2006.
Play Dead, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2007.
(With Erik Jendresen) Deadlocked (television movie), TNT, 2000.
Author of several screenplays.
SIDELIGHTS: Former television executive David Rosenfelt moved into print with his series of mystery novels featuring New Jersey lawyer Andy Carpenter. Carpenter “just might be the biggest wiseacre to hit the genre since [Nero Wolfe’s sidekick] Archie Goodwin,” according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor; the lawyer’s antics in the courtroom do not endear him to judges or prosecutors, but his self-deprecating humor makes his first-person narration “light, witty and very amusing,” as Hilary Williamson wrote in a review of Rosenfelt’s First Degree for BookLoons.
Carpenter makes his debut in Rosenfelt’s Open and Shut, when he is asked by his lawyer father, a former district attorney, to handle the appeal of convicted murderer Willis Miller, whose case was originally prosecuted by the elder Carpenter. When his father dies, Andy cannot back out of the promise. In the meantime, he must tackle another problem when he unexpectedly inherits twenty-two million dollars from his father’s estate, money Andy never suspected was there. To make matters more puzzling, he finds a photograph that seems to implicate his father in the murder for which Miller was imprisoned. Harriet Klausner, writing for Books ‘n’ Bytes, called Open and Shut “fast-paced” and “quite appealing,” while a Kirkus Reviews contributor praised the book’s “brisk dialogue, careful plotting, and solid spadework.”
Rosenfelt brings Carpenter back in First Degree, which finds the attorney able to pick and choose his cases more carefully, thanks to the inheritance he received in the first book. He is also able to spend most of his time searching for a good charitable cause to support. However, Carpenter has little choice but to get back to work when his lover and chief investigator Laurie Collins is charged with murdering a corrupt police officer. Andy finds himself trying to unravel the frame-up in the face of great odds. David Pitt, reviewing the novel for Library Journal, found that “Andy’s present-tense narration, peppered with self-deprecating humor and a rather large dose of cynicism, carries the story.” A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that “Rosenfelt’s got it all—canny invention, snappy dialogue, deftly managed legal conflicts, startling surprises.” Stuart Shiff-man, writing in Bookreporter.com, called First Degree “a wonderful, well-paced mystery that keeps the reader guessing,” and added: “Carpenter is an interesting character who will certainly have his share of intriguing cases in the future.”
Bury the Lead finds Carpenter tracking a serial killer who cuts off the hands of his unfortunate strangle victims. When a local journalist ends up accused of the crimes, Carpenter and Collins are on the case, solving the murders in “a breezy crime confection” that a Publishers Weekly contributor also dubbed a “fun rollercoaster ride,” despite the fact that Bury the Lead “may not have a single convincing dramatic moment” in it due to Rosenfelt’s penchant for wisecracking. Noting that “the real charm of this series lies in the wit of its affable narrator,” Booklist contributor David Wright praised the “Andy Carpenter” novels as a “waggish rejoinder” to more stolid legal thrillers.
Sudden Death finds Carpenter on a case involving a New York Giants professional football player who may have murdered a member of the rival New York Jets. Meanwhile, his work is complicated by the fact that a Hollywood screenwriter is on hand to translate Carpenter’s first case into a screenplay. Marianne Fitzgerald, writing in Library Journal, noted that the author “takes us on a great ride, throwing us red herrings… and witty repartee.” A Kirkus Reviews contributor commented that the novel offers “all Rosenfelt’s usual pleasures: a twisty plot, crackling courtroom scenes and a thousand wisecracks, some pretty doggoned funny.” A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that “this wisecracking legal thriller with its angst-ridden everyman hero manages to be sweet and humane.”
Carpenter goes it solo, after lover Laurie Collins returns to her hometown to be police chief, in Dead Center. Before long, however, Collins is on the phone to Carpenter, asking his help in a local case involving the stabbing deaths of two girls. Carpenter defends the young man accused of the crime, which may involve a strange cult in a secretive community. “Rosenfelt… tells a fast-paced story that’s hard to put down, a mystery spiced with interesting characters and brightened by the flames of a rekindled love affair,” wrote Ronnie H. Terpening in Library Journal. As David Pitt commented in his Booklist review, “those who like the added complexity of character-driven mysteries will find much to enjoy.”
Play Dead finds Andy Carpenter defending Yogi, a golden retriever that has supposedly bitten its owner. Carpenter posits that the dog was protecting itself from an abusive situation and ultimately wins its freedom. The story deepens, however, when the dog turns out to have belonged to another owner five years previous and holds the key to proving the innocence of U.S. customs inspector Richard Evans in the case of the murder of his fiancée. In a contribution for Kirkus Reviews, one writer dubbed the book “a steadily absorbing journey through layers and layers of deception. Only the very last surprise fizzles.” A reviewer for Publishers Weekly remarked: “No shaggy dog story, this puppy’s alive with reliable Rosenfelt wit and heart.” In a review for Booklist, contributor David Pitt opined that “Andy’s offbeat, outspoken personality shines on every page, and the balance of humor and mystery is dead-on.”
In addition to his writing career, Rosenfelt and his family live with an ever-changing “family” of up to thirty full-grown dogs due to their desire to help elderly and abandoned canines. Establishing the Tara Foundation in 1995 after being inspired by a beloved golden retriever pet, the Rosenfelts have since rescued and found new, loving homes for up to four thousand dogs. As Rosenfelt noted on his home page, his home has since become “a sanctuary for those dogs… that were too old or sickly to be wanted by others. They surround me as I write this. It’s total lunacy, but it works, and they are a happy, safe group.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 15, 2003, David Pitt, review of First Degree, p. 1281; May 1, 2004, David Wright, review of Bury the Lead, p. 1518; March 15, 2006, David Pitt, review of Dead Center, p. 33; April 1, 2007, David Pitt, review of Play Dead, p. 32.
Hollywood Reporter, March 10, 2003, Thomas Leitch, review of First Degree, p. 16.
Jet, June 19, 2000, review of Deadlocked, p. 64.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2003, review of First Degree, p. 350; April 15, 2004, review of Bury the Lead, p. 365; March 15, 2005, review of Sudden Death, p. 321; March 1, 2006, review of Dead Center, p. 213; April 1, 2007, review of Play Dead.
Library Journal, March 1, 2002, review of Open and Shut, p. 295; March 15, 2003, Roland Person, review of First Degree, p. 116; May 1, 2005, Marianne Fitzgerald, review of Sudden Death, p. 69; March 15, 2006, Ronnie H. Terpening, review of Dead Center, p. 68.
New York Times Book Review, June 8, 2003, review of First Degree.
Publishers Weekly, April 22, 2002, review of Open and Shut, p. 53; November 3, 2003; May 3, 2004, review of Bury the Lead, p. 174; March 7, 2005, review of Sudden Death, p. 48; March 7, 2005, Melissa Mia Hall, “Andy in the Endzone,” interview with the author, p. 49; February 26, 2007, review of Play Dead, p. 63.
BookLoons,http://www.bookloons.com/ (January 16, 2008), Hilary Williamson, review of First Degree.
Bookreporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (January 16, 2008), Stuart Shiffman, review of First Degree.
Books ’n’ Bytes,http://www.booksnbytes.com/ (January 16, 2008), Luke Croll, review of First Degree, Jeff Kreider, review of Open and Shut, and Harriet Klausner, review of Open and Shut.
David Rosenfelt Home Page,http://www.davidrosenfelt.com (March 21, 2007).*