A fast-paced legal thriller turning on questions of sex, self-defense and murder.
At the beginning of Lewis’ lean, debut novel, trial lawyer Will Lively has just won a major court case for his employers at Austin-based Billings & Banks—a case with a multimillion-dollar payday, if the client ever agrees to settle in order to avoid a court verdict. The 30-something hotshot lawyer celebrates the victory, confident that it will prompt the firm’s executives to make him a shareholder. When his slimy boss, Dexter Billings, breaks the news that his promotion has been deferred yet again, Will is bitter. He questions the decision, especially after he’s spent the last five years working 60 hours a week, 51 weeks a year. With the help of his mentor, Buddy Cruz, and the firm’s office manager, Cindy Ellis (with whom he has an impromptu fling on his office couch shortly after he gets the bad news), Will learns that his big case is indeed paying out—and that the firm’s shareholders decided to delay promoting him so that their individual shares of the profit would be that much higher. Will confronts Dexter about this underhanded bad faith. Dexter counters by revealing that he tape-recorded Will and Cindy’s lovemaking, and the two men come to blows in Dexter’s office. When Dexter dives for the .44 Magnum he keeps in his desk, events turn deadly: Will ends up killing Dexter and standing trial himself, with the aid of the legendary defense attorney Justin Jackson (who bills at $1,800 an hour, paid by a mysterious benefactor). Lewis keeps all these complications moving at a satisfying clip, reflecting everything through Will’s approachable viewpoint. While the writing sometimes becomes clichéd (“one fell swoop,” for instance, or “rules were made to be broken”), the book’s final third, set during Will’s trial, is grippingly written, full of sharp dialogue, insider insights into the court system, and twists and well-placed revelations the reader won’t expect.
An extremely well-executed courtroom novel, with a hero readers will want to meet again.