Debut thriller about a Philadelphia lawyer tired of being behind on his charge cards who agrees to join the defense team for an embattled city councilman and his aide -- and then watches his slick new buddies sell him down the river. The feds have a tape of impassioned anti-drug councilman Jimmy Moore trying to shake down ballplayer-turned-restauranteur Zack Bissonette. They plan to rush Moore and his aide, Chester Concannon, to trial even before Bissonette dies from a professionally administered beating and his club is torched. Moore's defense is headed by blue-blooded William Prescott III, but Prescott needs a lawyer outside his firm to take the fall along with Concannon, and the call goes to Victor Carl, who jumps on the case -- even though he's sure that Prescott means to defend Moore by feeding Concannon to the wolves -- because he's so desperate for big money and success and the hot-sheets favors of Moore's drugged-out mistress Veronica Ashland. The defense, however, is a nightmare. Prescott bids Victor sit as mute as a crash-test dummy, and a cowed Concannon concurs. Convinced that Bissonette was killed because of the mysterious last woman in his athletic life, Victor calls on a burlesque Othodox Jewish shamus, borrowed from another, equally ignominious case, to review the evidence. But his spasmodic investigations just get him into deeper trouble with Prescott, Moore, the Citizens for a United Philadelphia, a scary drug-dealer, some serious mobsters -- and then, finally, Veronica, whose apartment he drags himself to one last time to subpoena her as a hostile witness who is Concannon's only hope for vindication. Lashner, writing with a first-novelist's fearless grasp of clichâ€šs, still has a few surprises up his sleeve, and although Victor is a loser even so, it's not at all in the way he expected. Grisham fans will love the lawyer-baiting and righteous self-disgust, which will evidently continue indefinitely in a promised series.