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.