A lawyer, fresh off a two-year suspension, defends a burglar who was caught at a crime scene with a corpse in Sweeney’s debut thriller.
Boston attorney Mike Ratigan was prominent in his field a couple of years ago, but after a formal complaint by his ex-partner, he lost nearly everything. Now he struggles to garner new clients. Then he gets a call from career thief Frankie Maguire, whom cops arrested at the home of the late Sheila Graham. There’s a good chance that Sheila’s death was a bathtub drowning, so Mike anticipates that the Commonwealth will charge his client with murder as well as burglary. Frankie swears his innocence (of murder, at least); Mike eventually believes him and works toward mounting a third-party culprit defense. Meanwhile, Frankie can cover only part of Mike’s hefty fee with cash, so he has his girlfriend, Elaine Fowler, give Mike the rest in rare stamps. They’re probably stolen but unquestionably valuable, and if Mike could find a buyer for the entire stamp collection, he’d have quite an impressive haul. He also realizes that he could keep all of the money for himself if Frankie never made it out of jail—a predicament for the lawyer that’s only exacerbated by his sexual dalliance with Elaine. Although Sweeney’s novel features courtroom scenes, it’s more than simply a legal thriller, as it rivetingly focuses on Mike’s personal life as well. His promiscuity, for example, is integral to the plot—it’s the reason for his near-disbarment and could also have an adverse effect on Frankie’s case. Mike does do a bit of sleuthing, however, because he’s certain that someone else killed Sheila. Readers find out the identity of the murderer early in the story, but the real draw is seeing how Mike will figure it out. Sweeney adeptly manages the various subplots, and even if a couple of plot turns are predictable, the ending is a winner.
An involving tale with a protagonist who’s both compassionate and disreputable.