OPEN AND SHUT
It's no surprise to find Harlan Coben giving a blurb to Rosenfelt's debut mystery, an homage to Coben's popular Myron Bolitar series. Like Bolitar, lawyer Andy Carpenter lives in suburban New Jersey, has strong bonds with his father, is a sports nut and has a refreshing lack of respect for wealth and power. Andy also has Myron's self-deprecating sense of humor, which allows him to make fun of his personal shortcomings. But Rosenfelt lacks both Coben's powerful narrative engine and gift for bringing weird minor characters to credible life. Andy, a flamboyant district attorney who dazzles the onlookers in Paterson with cute courtroom antics that probably wouldn't last a New York or L.A. minute, stumbles through a couple of plots that just don't ring true. When his father, Nelson, a straight-arrow DA, asks him to defend a death row rapist/murderer seeking a new trial, Andy reluctantly agrees. When the older man dies (spectacularly, at a Yankees game), a totally unexpected $22 million estate surfaces. On the side, Andy works to restart his failed marriage to an important politician's daughter while also pursuing his no-nonsense female chief investigator. Then Andy finds—much too conveniently—an old photograph linking his father and a bunch of boyhood friends to the original crime. We never learn enough about Nelson to understand or care about his guilt. Loose ends that a Coben would never have left to dangle undermine the ending. Hopefully, a more seasoned Rosenfelt will do better next time. (May 9)
Forecast:Additional plugs from Donald E. Westlake and Margaret Maron, plus the author's status as former marketing president for Tri-Star Pictures, will ensure plenty of media attention for this Mystery Guild Featured Alternate.