I've decided that, when my birthday comes this year, I'm going to forego the standard wish that I have normally made. Since my life is good --- and I basically have everything I could possibly want --- I usually wish for something good for another person. This year, though, I'm going to be selfish. I'm going to wish that William Lashner would write more books.
It's been a while since William Lashner's last book, BITTER TRUTH (originally published as VERITAS). To say that FATAL FLAW, his new book, is worth the wait would be to utilize a cliché. There's no getting around it, however --- it's worth the wait. And as good as HOSTILE WITNESS, Lashner's debut novel, and BITTER TRUTH were, FATAL FLAW is definitely the butt-kicker of the three. The smartass edge in Victor Carl's voice is gone now. There are no laughs to be had in FATAL FLAW. This is a dark, dark tale that will keep you up for a couple of dark, dark nights turning pages at Concordian speed as you travel through Lashner's world.
FATAL FLAW does not waste time with lengthy introductions, but instead immediately plunges the reader into the middle of a crime scene. Carl has received a hysterical telephone call from Guy Forrest, an old college friend. When Carl reaches Forrest's side, he finds Hailey Prouix, Forrest's lover, murdered. Forrest has given up everything for Prouix --- marriage, family, job --- and it now appears that he will give up his liberty for her as well. Forrest is the obvious, and only, suspect in Prouix's murder. Carl agrees to defend Forrest, whom he believes to be guilty. Carl is not motivated by friendship, but rather by revenge. Forrest, as it turns out, was not Prouix's only lover. And Carl, who is shaken to his core by the murder, is determined to see that justice is done. What better way to insure that such occurs than to handle --- to manipulate --- the defense of the accused murderer, who Carl believes to be the doer of the deed?
But as Carl ever so skillfully leads his client to the theoretical guillotine, he begins to discover that he may be very, very wrong about so many things. Carl eventually finds that he must deconstruct the trap that he has built for his client, not only to prevent a miscarriage of justice, but also to keep from becoming trapped himself. In doing so, he must follow a trail that goes literally from one end of the country to the other and decades back in time, in order to uncover the life of a woman he knew too well yet never really knew at all.
Lashner's plotline in FATAL FLAW is incredibly complex. Yet, as he did with HOSTILE WITNESS and BITTER TRUTH, Lashner renders the difficult manageable and, even more importantly, interesting as he guides his reader through a labyrinth of plot twists that span space and time. Lashner also continues his practice of introducing quirky, unusual private investigators who almost steal the book away. The shamus introduced in FATAL FLAW is one Phil Skink and he is a central, unforgettable element in this unforgettable book. He is certainly as complex and indefinable a character as Carl himself has come to be --- and could easily be featured in a tale all his own. It is worth reading FATAL FLAW just for his introduction. Let's hope for a future reacquaintance.
FATAL FLAW may well be the novel that makes William Lashner a household name. Look for this one to be on several "Best Of" lists by year's end. Highest possible recommendation.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 30, 2004