David Rosenfelt’s latest suspenseful and witty mystery opus is “Animal Instinct,” the second in what will surely be another long-running hit novel series, this one featuring the “K Team,” three human investigators plus a very important canine operative, former police dog Simon Garfunkel. Yes, that is his name, which I cite here in full because I laugh so hard every time I see it.
The first twist in the mystery is that the first-person narrator and lead investigator in this unique case, former police officer Corey Douglas, is also the primary target of the police investigation. They’re quite sure he is the murderer. We readers, of course, know that he has been framed, but the real perpetrators are slippery, brilliant, sly, and merciless. Murders abound.
Rosenfelt follows his usual M.O. at the very beginning. He introduces a character named Lisa Page on page one. By page three, she’s dead. Corey suspects that the murderer is her former boyfriend, Gerald Kline, whom Corey suspects had been abusing Lisa. Kline is a rather evil fellow, and Corey expresses his negative opinion about him to a police officer acquaintance. Kline, however, places a phone call to Corey and begs the investigator to meet him at his (Kline’s) house. Corey arrives there, only to find a very dead Gerald Kline lying on the floor. Being a former cop, he knows what should be done, so he calls in the crime to the police. But all kinds of phony clues have been planted at the scene, and they all point to Corey himself as the murderer. Deep trouble.
From this point on, the investigation plot and process take shape. The police carry on a relatively shallow investigation because they believe they have their man. And the K Team simultaneously carries out a much more careful investigation in order to find the real murderer and to clear Corey and restore his heretofore stellar reputation. So off they go — Corey; Simon; Laurie, the ex-cop and present wife of the incorrigible defense attorney Andy Carpenter; and Marcus, the team’s enforcer, who has never lost a fight and whom only Laurie can understand because Marcus’s entire vocabulary during investigations consists of “y-u-h-h-h” for “yes” and and something like “n-y-u-h-h-h” for “no.” Also along for the bumpy ride is the ubiquitous Sam Willis, who can hack anybody or anything and anything legal or not-so-legal. And Andy will represent Corey in court.
Their investigation turns up many potential clues and leads, all of which end up exactly nowhere. The heroes are stumped, and additional murders abound. But they eventually make some hard-won headway; they become convinced that the murders and accompanying crimes are performed via a cleverly constructed conspiracy involving several peripheral but significant characters. They conclude that with every new murder, Corey looks less and less guilty, but they still must prove conclusively to the cops and the jury that Corey is innocent.
As usual, Rosenfelt mixes in third-person-omniscient narrative chapters in addition to Corey’s view of the proceedings, so we know more about the villains than the “cast” does. But also as usual, though we meet in those third-person chapters a man who is obviously a guilty party, we are as mystified about the specific elements of the conspiracy as are Corey and friends. When the web is all unraveled, Rosenfelt produces a kind of solution that is NOT usual for him: he hits us smack-dab in the face with a truly existential crisis that confronts us now and will likely prove even more shocking, dangerous — and even deadly — in the future.
But have no fear. The traditional Rosenfelt humor still graces every page — the dialogue, the narration, and the characters themselves produce smiles and laughs galore. And to top everything off in style, check out the delicious Acknowledgements after the novel, two pages worth of tasty giggles. Rosenfelt strikes again.
Review by Jack Kramer. Note: This review was first posted on Bookreporter.com.