Sudden Death

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

David Rosenfelt's third Andy Carpenter mystery finds the Paterson, New Jersey, attorney defending Kenny Schilling, star running back for the New York Giants. Schilling is accused of killing Troy Preston, a wide receiver for the New York Jets, after the two were heard arguing, possibly about a woman. Schilling's firing a shot at police when they arrive at his home seems clearly to indicate his guilt.

Carpenter is aided in his investigation by his lover, Laurie Collins, whom he successfully defended on a murder charge in First Degree (2003), and by Adam Strickland, an earnest young Hollywood screenwriter. Strickland is following Carpenter around in hopes of writing a screenplay about one of his previous cases and perhaps this one as well.

At first, the evidence seems to point to a gang of local drug dealers for whom Preston had been selling. Then Strickland discovers that Preston is only one of a group of former high school All Americans who have died young and that Schilling was in the vicinity at the deaths of each.

Rosenfelt, whose mysteries are frequently compared to Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, cleverly balances the legal, football, and personal sides of the plot, with Carpenter distracted by the possibility that Collins will abandon him for a police job in her Wisconsin hometown. When the fascinatingly complicated case seemingly reaches its conclusion, Rosenfelt adds two more twists.

Despite fantasizing about becoming the Giants’ forty-year-old placekicker, Carpenter is more rounded than in the previous novels, less of a wisecracker. He is even guilty of a serious crime. Rosenfelt surrounds him with a small group of devoted friends who aid in the investigation. These regulars are increasingly well drawn and help point toward long life for the series.