“Hey, what’s not to love about DEATH BY RODRIGO? You got your quirky characters, you got a story moving faster than a boosted Caddie on the Jersey ‘Pike, you got side-splitting humor, you got a gritty look at life on the meanest of mean streets. We’re talking fast and furious fun.” - Jeffery Deaver
Early reviews for this first novel by former federal prosecutor Ron Liebman have been overwhelmingly positive. He has taken two popular genres and successfully combined them in a dynamite story. Though we do not necessarily expect humor from our jurists, we have found that many of our most gifted authors are former practicing attorneys. With DEATH BY RODRIGO, Liebman joins the ranks of William Bernhardt, John Grisham, James Scott Bell, Craig Parshall and other talented lawyers who have given readers an enlightening inside look at the justice system.
The book is set in Camden, New Jersey (which by itself is pretty funny to those of us from the great Northeast), where some of the world’s greatest weirdoes and meanest meanies reside. Among the residents are two former Camden cops-turned-lawyers, Salvatore "Junne" Salerno, Jr. and Mickie Mezzonatti. These guys are a pair to draw to. While they don’t aspire to greatness, they do try their best to work the system for their street-smart but not-too-bright clients like Roscoe Jones, aka Buffalo Reds, top pimp about town. They recognize that “the people we represent are all guilty…” but someone has to defend them. And thus they maintain their marginal existence and debatable status in the Jersey court system.
Then along comes Rodrigo Gonzalez, a jailed Salvadoran drug lord who wants the lawyers to get him bail so he can jump it, head back to Salvador and resume his lucrative career. Getting him bailed out is not a request; it is a demand that carries heavy consequences if it is not accomplished. All other cases are forced to take a back seat while Junne and Mickie work on the case of their lives, literally. Though not eager to put this drug peddler back in business, they are not quite ready to give up their lives either. Thus the conflicted pair seeks to find a way to solve the problem at hand.
Speaking of conflicted, Junne is struggling with his sexuality, which in Camden, New Jersey --- among the thugs, toughs and macho attorneys --- is no small deal. And Mickie is always trying to set him up with a friend of his girlfriend. In addition to such very current themes, Liebman has mastered the art of snappy dialogue, capturing the flavor of the streets where prosecutors mingle with prostitutes and judges cuss like sailors (no offense to our naval personnel). There is one colorful character after another bouncing in and out of each scene, each one creating his own brand of chaos.
If you enjoy the Christopher Klim/Carl Hiaasen/Elmore Leonard brand of humor and like to encourage new authors, then be sure to pick up a copy of DEATH BY RODRIGO.
Reviewed by Maggie Harding on December 29, 2010