Charles Cutter

Charles Cutter is the nom de plume for R. Charles McLray, an attorney in East Lansing, Michigan.





"However, Burr shines at trial. His snide, often mumbled commentary becomes fitting when he’s facing a judge who clearly doesn’t like him and who’s more interested in wrapping things up quickly. The story’s legal banter is snappy, vibrant, and not without humor; one of the prosecutor’s objections against Burr, for example, is that “Counsel is flirting with the witness.” Burr’s investigation does eventually get a breakthrough, and there’s an effective plot twist near the end. His rapid-fire questioning of defendants on the stand, though, is nothing short of exhilarating. A mystery with a protagonist who’s truly in his element inside the courtroom."

Kirkus Reviews

BOOKS REVIEWED BY KIRKUS:

Pub Date:
ISBN: 978-1-933926-57-5
Page count: 310pp

Cutter’s debut legal thriller tells the story of a litigator in Mackinac Island, Michigan, who defends a man accused of murder.

Attorney Burr Lafayette is called to a bar called The Pink Pony by police chief Art Brandstatter, who suspects that Burr stole a pink hobbyhorse that normally hangs above the bar’s door. But inside the bar is the scene of a far more serious crime: Jimmy Lyons lies dead by strangulation. Burr is initially reluctant to help accused murderer Murdoch Halverson, but he ultimately relents, as he needs the money; after all, he owns a building in which the elevator doesn’t even work. The case against Halverson is strong, due in part to a reputed affair between Jimmy and Halverson’s wife, Anne. But Burr is determined to exonerate his client, even if it means that he has to start his own investigation and find the killer himself. The novel spotlights a lawyer who isn’t the most likable guy: he’s cynical in nearly any situation and tends to leer at women (although he does at one point reflect on his own “shallowness”). Cutter adds a few details to give him a modicum of sympathy, such as his faithful Lab, Zeke, who has more personality than Burr’s rarely seen 9-year-old son, also named Zeke, who’s a child of divorce. However, Burr shines at trial. His snide, often mumbled commentary becomes fitting when he’s facing a judge who clearly doesn’t like him and who’s more interested in wrapping things up quickly. The story’s legal banter is snappy, vibrant, and not without humor; one of the prosecutor’s objections against Burr, for example, is that “Counsel is flirting with the witness.” Burr’s investigation does eventually get a breakthrough, and there’s an effective plot twist near the end. His rapid-fire questioning of defendants on the stand, though, is nothing short of exhilarating.

A mystery with a protagonist who’s truly in his element inside the courtroom.

In Cutter’s (The Pink Pony, 2015) legal thriller, a Michigan woman is charged with murdering her husband a year after his apparently accidental death.

In 1990, Burr Lafayette is a commercial litigator, but he willingly takes a criminal case, as he has to pay the mortgage on his rundown East Lansing, Michigan, office building. His new client is Lizzie Shepherd, whose husband, Quinn, died by drowning a year ago. Lizzie’s under arrest for murder, however, as cops claim that she actually killed Quinn with a canoe paddle. A woman named Margaret Winston recently discovered the paddle, along with apparent evidence that it’s the murder weapon. Prosecutor John Cullen has a strong case; there are rumors that Quinn had been unfaithful to Lizzie, seemingly corroborated by eyewitness accounts of a confrontation between Lizzie and an unknown woman sitting with Quinn in a bar. Burr has his work cut out for him—particularly when it turns that Lizzie is withholding information from him, which leads to more than one surprise in the courtroom. Still, the lawyer is determined to prove that Quinn’s death was indeed an accident, or that someone other than Lizzie killed him. The silver-tongued attorney’s best bet is to extract information from uncooperative and/or deceitful witnesses on the stand. This is the second novel featuring Burr, who repeatedly displays his legal aptitude here. The realistic but entertaining story takes readers through various battles of wits, such as an evidentiary hearing and jury selection, as well as Burr’s fight against a request for exhumation of Quinn’s body. Even when he stumbles in the courtroom, he finds a way to recover. The mystery, meanwhile, is genuinely engrossing; readers, like Burr, may suspect that Lizzie really did kill her husband. The best secondary characters are those in Burr’s corner, including his legal assistant Eve McGinty; law partner Jacob Wertheim; and loyal dog, Zeke. Although a few boating scenes are strikingly detailed, it’s Cutter’s razor-sharp dialogue in the courtroom that’s truly unforgettable.

A smashing murder mystery featuring a quick-witted protagonist.