Tuesday, June 23, 2020


by Steve Cavanagh
Recommended Ages: 14+

Eddie Flynn used to be a husband and father. Now he lives alone in a New York City apartment that doubles as his office. He used to be a con-man; now he's a defense lawyer. He used to scrape by, winning cases against crooked cops. Now, suddenly, he's second chair on the defense of a Hollywood rising star who is accused of murdering his wife and her lover. Just as suddenly, when the studio paying for the big-name law firm yanks its support for Bobby's defense, Eddie finds himself in the first and only chair.

The evidence against young Bobby Solomon is solid, but Eddie believes he's innocent. On his first look at the case, the only possible defense seems to be going after the cops for planting fake evidence. There is something fishy, after all, about the dollar bill folded into an origami butterfly and stuck under the tongue of the male victim – like, for instance, the fact that it has DNA on it from a convicted serial killer who was executed, before the bill was printed, for a series of crimes in which dollar bills were left on the victims' bodies as a kind of signature. But even the theory that the cops somehow contaminated the crime scene evidence with trace DNA from 16 years ago and another state is less outlandish than the one that Eddie sees starting to take shape – the theory that the real killer gets off on framing other people for his crimes.

But even that is only a tiny fraction of how weird it gets. For, unbeknownst to Eddie and everybody else (except the reader and one other person), the killer isn't satisfied with just leaving evidence pointing toward someone else. He has to make sure his patsy goes down for the crime. How? By murdering, mimicking and manipulating his way onto the jury at his trial. And then doing whatever is necessary to hand over a Guilty verdict.

Eddie, Bobby and their bunch are in a tight spot. There's a serial killer in the jury box and they don't know who it is. They can't confront the jury with this, because that'll just tick them off and they'll vote to convict. They can't move for a mistrial, because in the first place it won't work and, even if it did, the killer would get away. But every moment they continue the trial, Eddie and his team grow increasingly sure that everyone in the courtroom is in hideous danger.

Oh! And I forgot to mention, while Eddie is impeaching the testimony of some crooked homicide cops, he's making enemies who are just about as deadly as Dollar Bill – as an FBI analyst calls their unknown serial killer. As the trial winds up – not without several jurors being put out of commission, in some cases forever – a rush of violence and death coils up like a spring until the pages almost hum with the tension, and then it lets go. Haunting "offstage" deaths, sickening "onstage" ones, a killer whose motives (revealed in third-person narrated chapters alternating with Eddie's first-person ones) are disturbing in their off-bubble logic, a couple of insane twists worthy of a Jeffery Deaver novel, an accomplice (you forgot that one other person, didn't you?) whose identity is revealed as a final shock, and a climax that boils over with an excess of danger and fear, top off a fast-paced action-mystery that, nevertheless, is at its best during the courtroom scenes.

I've been out of touch with the legal thrillers genre. The titles I've read by, for example, John Grisham and Brad Meltzer all pre-date the turn of this century and are therefore not among my reviews. (Nor will they be, most likely, because I don't as a rule re-read.) So, don't be surprised that this is the first Steve Cavanagh novel I have read, although it's the fourth of his going-on-five Eddie Flynn novels, including The Defense, The Plea, The Liar and moving on to Fifty-fifty, which is scheduled for release Sept. 3, 2020. I may just have to circle back and catch up on this series. A civil rights lawyer from Northern Ireland, Cavanagh is also the author of a novel titled Twisted.

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