THE DEVIL TO PAY by Gaylord Dold


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Don’t care for lawyers? Then you’ll love this tale of how a down-on-his-luck attorney’s slide to destruction is greased by his own legal counsel. Despite a fat trust fund and a trophy wife, San Francisco lawyer Jack Darwin is in trouble. His marriage is on the skids, since shy, bookish Darwin shares only one interest with vivacious Karla, and they hardly ever indulge that one anymore. Karla’s spending habits have made a big dent in Darwin’s trust fund, whose principal won’t get turned over to him for another ten years. And his first foray into criminal defense will come a cropper as soon as the judge hears Darwin’s hopelessly amateurish motion to dismiss. But as Darwin is sitting over still another bourbon bemoaning his fate, a fairy godmother appears in the form of David Avila, a fellow attorney who helps the other lawyer redraft his motion, points him toward some lucrative criminal defense work, and takes him under his wing. Darwin doesn’t know that his new friend, fresh from Karla’s bed, has already been plotting ways to relieve him of wife, home, and trust fund. So even as Darwin thinks he’s taking the first steps toward a new life with law- student Dolores Hernandez, he’s in fact following the footprints his fairy godmother has laid out for him—prints that lead to a messy divorce amid allegations of assault, a hopelessly compromised reputation, and, inevitably, the hot seat in a murder trial, with Avila on hand to run Darwin’s defense into the ground. Dold (Schedule Two, 1996, etc.) presents Darwin’s bumpy descent with easy empathy for this flawed, gentle man, but also, regrettably, with a complete lack of surprise. It’s fun for a while to watch diabolical Avila sink his client deeper and deeper into the muck, but even when the worm begins to turn, the revelations that will save Jack are as predictable as the villainy. Still, this is a sturdy nightmare for readers who love lawyers, and a satisfying revenge fantasy for readers who don’t.

Pub Date: Feb. 22nd, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-19257-6
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1999


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