In Blenkush’s mystery, a young, inexperienced lawyer’s seemingly slam-dunk murder case becomes anything but.
Lang Lawton is a junior partner at his uncle’s law firm, where cases have taken a backseat to his uncle’s alcoholism. Adding to Lang’s discomfort is his wife, who demands they leave their small town for something bigger and better. When a public defender drops what seems like an open-and-shut case into the firm’s lap, Lang relishes the opportunity to put his law degree to work. A television news report hints at something that makes Lang doubt his client’s guilt; the client, however, is a sphinxlike character who provides Lang with little help. As Lang continues his investigation, pressure mounts for his client to plead guilty. Lang’s life is in jeopardy when the once-simple case unfurls, implicating a high-profile political race and a Mexican crime boss. Blenkush’s well-written thriller successfully mines a well-worn mystery trope: “the more you know, the less you like it.” Lang, a sympathetic character, maintains stubborn adherence to the attorney’s code of providing a proper defense no matter the circumstances, which seems almost prehistoric in these days of plea bargains, pretrial deals and rushes to judgment. Blenkush keeps the storyline front and center, without meandering into any extraneous subplots that could sap energy from the main narrative. What works against the novel, though, is its exceptionally complex plot and large cast of characters. At times, readers may wish for a scorecard to keep characters and scenarios in order. Far too many cryptic conversations between characters occur, during which little is learned. Meanwhile, the plot hangs suspended in the background, straining to move forward but paused until the verbal jousting is complete. Nonetheless, readers will be guessing the outcome until the book’s satisfying conclusion.
Another round of editing would make this an excellent legal thriller.