Dead Center Review
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New Jersey lawyer Andy Carpenter hasn’t exactly been the busiest guy in town lately. After his girlfriend, Laurie, a cop, left him to go back to her hometown in Wisconsin, he’s pretty much given up on both dating and work. But when Laurie calls asking for his help, Andy can’t resist.

Laurie—now the acting chief of police in Findlay, Wisconsin—has just made the town’s biggest arrest in years. Two young women were brutally murdered, and all signs point to Jeremy Davidson, the ex-boyfriend of one of the girls, as the killer. The evidence is there—but Laurie’s not convinced that Jeremy is capable of murder. She asks him to speak to Jeremy’s father—who begs Andy to come to Wisconsin and defend his son. While Andy’s reluctant to pack up and leave, he’s intrigued by the case—and he wants nothing more than to see Laurie again—so he agrees to head to Findlay and check out the case.

Once in Findlay, Andy—with the help of Findlay’s one defense attorney, Calvin Marshall—discovers that there’s more to the case than a brutal murder. Behind it lies a mysterious, secretive religion, practiced by a group called Centurions, who reside in nearby Center City. The Centurions aren’t exactly welcoming to outsiders—which makes Andy’s job all the more difficult, since both victims were from Center City. If he’s going to be able to figure out who really murdered the two girls—and successfully defend his client—he’s going to have to get past the Centurions’ tightly-kept secrets.

Dead Center wasn’t what I expected from the cover; it was even better. The story was so captivating—and the suspense so gripping—that I found myself finding any excuse I could to pick it up again. And once I picked it up, it was nearly impossible to set down.

Carpenter is a wonderful character. He may be a wealthy defense attorney, but he’s also just a normal guy. He likes burgers and fries and beer. He has a close relationship with his bookie. He hangs out with the guys at the bar down the street. He loves his dog—and he treats her like she’s human. He has all kinds of quirks and strange habits. And he has a long list of unusual friends and associates—like Marcus, the private investigator who doubles as a bodyguard, or Sam, the hacker who tends to speak in song lyrics. If Andy Carpenter were a woman, he’d be a slightly subdued Stephanie Plum (of Janet Evanovich’s best-selling numbered mysteries). As with Plum’s mysteries, the quirky cast of characters alone makes it well worth reading.

But there’s more to Dead Center than just the characters. There’s also a riveting story with plenty of twists—and an unexpected ending. My only complaint is that the end could have been developed a bit better—it feels rather abrupt, after such a huge build-up. Still, Rosenfelt manages to give the novel page-turning suspense while injecting in plenty of humor, too. I highly recommend picking up a copy of Dead Center. It’ll make a great poolside read. Just remember to bring plenty of sun block—because you might just get so caught up in the action that you’ll forget to flip.

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