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Flop Dead Gorgeous: An Andy Carpenter Mystery


Flop Dead Gorgeous: An Andy Carpenter Mystery

FLOP DEAD GORGEOUS, the 27th entry in David Rosenfelt's mystery series starring Andy Carpenter, offers us some different views and angles than those to which we are accustomed in the earlier novels. But the factors that make Rosenfelt unique are just as evident here as they are in every book in the series. No other mystery writer demonstrates his uncanny knack for giving us real suspense and difficult-to-solve legal issues while also providing laugh-out-loud (or, at the very least, broad smile-inducing) lighthearted insult humor, self-deprecating dialogue and first-person narration.

Andy Carpenter is the brilliant, wealthy, pain-in-the-proverbial-butt defense attorney who would rather be anywhere than in his ramshackle law office preparing for a stressful murder trial or, worse, defending his totally innocent client in a hostile courtroom.

"Sometimes it seems that Rosenfelt, despite his successes as an executive and author, may have missed his true calling. He probably would have made a terrific defense attorney. Almost as superb as the inimitable Andy Carpenter himself."

In FLOP DEAD GORGEOUS, there are welcome bonuses, mostly provided by Rosenfelt’s well-established knowledge of "inside Hollywood" info gained when he was president of marketing at Tri-Star Pictures before his conversion to mystery authorship. We are privy to the ways that Hollywood functions. It ain’t a pretty picture, to say the least.

The reason for the Hollywood setting is that the primary suspect in the murder case (there are several murders, of course) is Jenny Nichols, a famous and gorgeous (hence the title) movie star originally from Andy's hometown of Paterson, New Jersey. Andy had dated her a few times in their high school days, which he naturally mentions to all the other characters and his readers about 120 times throughout the course of the story. She ultimately rejected him.

While Jenny is visiting Paterson, staying in her mother's old home, she attends a party with Andy and many of his friends and partners. The party is invaded by her Hollywood co-star and ex-boyfriend, Ryan Griffin, who insists that she leave with him. When she refuses, he is hostile and violent. Later that night, while Jenny is sleeping, she hears a noise in the kitchen and walks back there to see what's going on. Ryan is lying motionless on the floor with a knife firmly stuck in his back, so she calls the police. But when they arrive, it seems to them that Jenny, in her panicked, paranoid state, murdered the guy. The state of the kitchen, the fight at the party and his erratic behavior all lead them to the conclusion that perhaps they had argued, but there is no question that --- excuses notwithstanding --- she killed him.

From that point on, the plot expands in several mysterious and confusing directions involving a number of potential suspects, most of whom are villainous guys and girls -- Hollywood executive types, crooked accountants, Russian mobsters, money launderers and assorted other shady characters. But the needle of guilt still points directly at Jenny. Andy, his wife Laurie, and Jenny's friends all know that Jenny is a sweet, generous, kind person who would never hurt anybody or anything…except perhaps Andy and his broken heart when she rejected his stab (excuse the expression) at teenaged boyfriendhood.

But the cops, the prosecutor and probably the jury could reason that maybe, or maybe not-so-maybe, she simply lost control when confronted by her miserable ex, and in the passion of the moment stuck a kitchen knife in his back. Andy's investigators, Laurie and her partners Marcus the superman, ex-cop Corey, and Corey's trusted canine police dog/companion Simon Garfunkel, are on the case to find the real killer, but they continually crash into brick walls.

Jenny's trial and Andy's defense tactics, clever as they are, seem to add up to a horror story from which Jenny cannot escape. It leads to a very un-Andy Carpenter-like conclusion. But (trying desperately here to avoid spoilers) despite the aura of doom and the forbidding circumstances, I assure you Andy Carpenter fans that the ending is completely satisfying and even emotionally rewarding. As a matter of fact, the entire court scene and its aftermath reveal facets of Andy's character that we've rarely experienced before. He's always been a really good guy deep down, but here he exhibits truly profound regrets, empathy and heartfelt emotional reactions to the events.

Still another takeaway from the trial and pre-trial scenes is one that I have noticed before: the apparent authenticity of Andy's trial tactics, his instructions to his clients, and all the courtroom procedures and rules. Rosenfelt says that he has zero formal education regarding the law, how to be an effective lawyer, how a lawyer prepares for a trial, and what kinds of verbal strategies are most effective in actual trial conditions. Yet to a layperson (like me), Andy's legal brilliance seems well-grounded in lawyerly wisdom and knowledge. This is an extraordinary accomplishment on Rosenfelt’s part.

Sometimes it seems that Rosenfelt, despite his successes as an executive and author, may have missed his true calling. He probably would have made a terrific defense attorney. Almost as superb as the inimitable Andy Carpenter himself.

Reviewed by Jack Kramer on July 22, 2023

Flop Dead Gorgeous: An Andy Carpenter Mystery
by David Rosenfelt

  • Publication Date: July 4, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250828902
  • ISBN-13: 9781250828903