Victor Carl is the admitted benefactor of his own self-interests and ambiguous values. But not to worry; he also possesses an amazing wit, ever at hand with a wry remark or trenchant observation. Thanks to the good nature of his partner, Beth Dillinger, Carl takes on the appeal of Françoise Dube, a man previously found guilty of murdering his estranged wife.
When Victor and Beth are granted a new trial for Françoise on appeal, Victor is less than thrilled, although the delivery of a hefty $10,000 cash retainer does much to improve his mood as the office is buried in case files. An assortment of bizarre characters await: the murdered woman's surgically enhanced sister, Velma, who is surreptitiously bankrolling the appeal; Seamus Dent, an apparently not-so-innocent bystander who testified that Françoise was at the scene of the crime in the first trial; and a hard-boiled but soft-hearted detective who tries to save one of the desperate souls who cross his path on the job.
Then there is Dube's former attorney, an elderly man so wrapped up in his own dance with death that he turns a blind eye to the truth; Horace T. Grant, a curmudgeonly old man who directs Victor on the path of righteousness and good works; and the ubiquitous dentist, Dr. Pfeffer, whose tentacles are everywhere, with personal ties to everyone in the case, a self-proposed do-gooder who evidences no moral constraints when manipulating the lives of others.
The author provides some choice images along the way - the three crones gossiping on their apartment house steps, cackling like the three witches in Macbeth, karaoke night at King's Dominion, an Elvis bar where everyone pays tribute to the King, Victor Carl’s out-of-body experience during a romantic encounter with a woman whose precise directions on pleasing her are like a game of Twister, and the dental-phobic attorney's increasing number of ordeals writhing in the avid Dr. Pfeffer's dental chair.
Lasher knows how to stage a scene with eccentric characters and moody atmosphere, and this engrossing mystery is a microcosm of the real world, where money and power rule and regular folks are the lowest rung on the food chain. In a lesson taught with great panache, subtle twists of fate prove, again and again, how arrogance can lead to a long, long fall.
With an innate sense of the humorous in everyday human affairs, plenty of edgy dialog and a dynamite plot with an abundance of complications, this is a story well worth the price of admission. One caveat: if you haven't been to the dentist lately, some of the gruesome procedures herein may keep you away for a few more years.
A defense attorney himself, Lashner is a master of cunning and innovative plot twists, knowing well the intricacies of circumstantial evidence and facile testimony, the natural deception inherent in human dialog. In other words, Lashner writes what he knows well, trial law: the good, the bad and the ugly, all combined in this highly imaginative mystery that will set your teeth on edge.