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Lawyers, Guns and Money

af J. D. Rhoades

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Andy Cole is a defense attorney in the small Southern town of Blainesville. With the exception of going off to school, Andy’s been in the same town his whole life, joining his father’s law practice upon graduation. When his father died Andy became the keeper of the firm’s secrets, and has made a nice living using his deep-rooted knowledge of the local people and courts to his clients’ advantage.

It being a small town, a lot of Andy’s business comes from repeat clients. So it’s no surprise when biggest repeat client Voit Fairgreen, the closest thing Blainesville has to a crime boss, shows up in Andy’s office with a bag of cash and the need for Andy’s skills. What is a surprise is that it’s Voit’s brother, Danny, who’s in trouble. Generally the ‘white sheep’ of an otherwise criminally inclined family, Danny’s been arrested for murder.

Being charged with murder is serious enough as it is, but it certainly doesn’t help when the victim was a well-known, attractive, young blonde who was brutally butchered in the kitchen of her own home. It’s decidedly not good, actually, but still potentially able to be overcome. Oh, except there’s the little matter of Danny having been seen with the victim earlier in the evening on which she was killed, not to mention he was found passed out in a chair mere feet from the victim’s nearly disemboweled body. Yeah… that’s gonna be a problem.

Or is it? Right from the beginning of Andy’s investigation weird things start to happen. First, he’s not allowed to examine the crime scene despite it having been ‘cleared’ by the forensics team, something that’s normally routine. Then a serious criminal file on the victim that Andy should have access to turns up missing, while the juvenile file on the victim that he shouldn’t have access to mysteriously shows up at his office. Add to that a judge who seems a little too interested in getting rid of the case and a prosecutor who’s too willing to make a deal and Andy realizes he has his worst nightmare on his hands, an innocent client who’s being railroaded. Now Andy must decide whether he’s willing to risk everything he has, even his life, to save another’s.

That scores of attorneys have tried their hands at writing novels is no secret. What may not be as well-known is that amongst us attorneys (yes, I am one in case you weren’t aware of that) the general consensus is that most of them suck. So much so, it takes a lot for me to even give a legal thriller a chance anymore. Folks, attorney/author J.D. Rhoades knows what he’s doing, both in the courtroom and on the page, and Lawyers, Guns and Money succeeds where most attorney-authored novels fail for two main reasons. First, Rhoades wisely mixes a generous dose of hillbilly noir into the plot, which brings a grittiness to the story usually missing from legal thrillers. Second, Rhoades doesn’t sugar-coat or glorify the legal process, but instead uses the most routine and trivial aspects of what it’s really like to be a small town lawyer to bring a verisimilitude to the story that is so glaringly lacking in the average (obviously written with the big screen in mind) legal thriller.

There’s also the fact that Rhoades can just flat-out write. The plot of Lawyers, Guns and Money is complicated without being convoluted, the characters are well-developed without a caricature in the bunch, and Rhoades has mastered the art of working big-ticket items into a story (the death penalty, Alzheimer’s, and the ‘war’ on drugs are all addressed) without disrupting its flow or coming across as advocating an agenda. Simply put, it would be doing it a disservice to call Lawyers, Guns and Money a well-written legal thriller; it’s just a damn well-written book period. And I’d swear to that under oath. ( )
  AllPurposeMonkey | Mar 9, 2012 |
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