Lashner’s sardonic defense attorney unravels layers of deception in the retrial of a charming convicted killer.
A dark and stylish woman named Velma Takahashi hires Philadelphia lawyers Victor Carl (Past Due, 2004, etc.) and Beth Derringer to secure a new trial for suave chef François Dubé, who has already served three years for the violent murder of his wife Leesa. He—or someone—shot her through the neck. Victor, who dryly narrates the tale, is unconvinced of Dubé’s innocence and concerned that Beth, “the patron saint of lost causes,” has fallen for his continental charm and blinded herself to the facts. Nonetheless, money talks; the two take the case, and Victor begins investigating. And there’s much to look into. The state’s star witness was Seamus Dent, a petty criminal with an addiction to karaoke. Not long after the trial, he was killed in a suspicious police shooting. Victor reconstructs this crime, while also looking into the checkered past of a police detective named Torricelli, another key witness who may have perjured himself, and verifying allegations of Dubé’s rampant womanizing. The supposed flash point for the killing was Leesa’s confrontation of Dubé regarding his extracurricular activities. Relatedly, who is Velma Takahashi and why is she footing the bill for Dubé’s defense? Victor digs up several seamy backstories about the Dubés, including drug addiction and pornography with underage participants. Along the way, he and Beth have several disagreements stemming from their different views of the defendant, arguments that put a real strain on their relationship. A grim and equally complex though less grisly subplot has Victor on the trail of missing children in a pro bono family court case. Meanwhile, casting a pall over Victor’s life and a comic sheen on the story is the saga of Victor’s increasingly throbbing tooth. He makes the mistake of choosing loopy Dr. Bob Pfeiffer to ease his dental pain.
Another overstuffed ramble through the legal system from Lashner, who trades smart and entertaining riffs for narrative tension.