AN ALMOST LIFE by Kevin Mednick


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A New York trial lawyer who specializes in personal-injury litigation narrates New York attorney Mednick’s fast-paced, entertaining debut novel.

The former is Mike Samuels: 40-ish, divorced and clinging to loving relationships with his teenaged kids, while exchanging weary witticisms with his super-efficient secretary Alice (think Sam Spade’s Effie) and testing the tight leash on which his girlfriend, Ann-Marie, keeps him. Mike’s expertise is tested (and his life complicated) when he takes on topless dancer Teri Goebel’s suit against the surgeon who botched her breast implants. He also represents luckless Evelyn Walker, the victim of a (literally) hair-raising industrial accident. The novel’s best feature is Mike’s wisecracking voice, which proves most engaging in the novel’s many, many digressions. The plot is minimal, so we don’t much mind when he woolgathers on every imaginable law-related priority and subtlety—in effect creating a subversive primer on how The System works and how to survive its frustrations (e.g., “Lawyers procrastinate. I told you that already but I put off telling you why”). Variety is provided by scenes in which Mike offers himself up to the possibility of being seduced by the dazzling Ms. Goebel, and in frequent hey-man-you-gotta-help-me-out-here conversations with his best pal Dan Stoneham, a charismatic slacker who has done everything, knows everyone and loves to give Mike grief (“You know, for a guy with a fancy education, you are really dense”). Mednick keeps it moving, despite paper-thin characterizations (e.g., of Mike’s shark-like courtroom opponent Harry LeCount). When the Walker case comes to trial, several surprise twists provide a snazzy climax—thankfully, as the novel’s wan final pages are quite disappointing.

No real threat to Turow or Grisham, but not bad, not bad at all.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-57962-157-5
Page count: 238pp
Publisher: Permanent Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2007