How nice it is to have Jake Lassiter back, after too long an absence. Whatever muse has prompted Paul Levine to resurrect the ethically challenged but morally upright defense attorney in the just-published LASSITER is owed a card of thanks. Levine, of course, is pitch-perfect as ever, providing the right amount of sharp wit, spirited dialogue and intense plot to make the book a joy to read from beginning to end.
"Levine, of course, is pitch-perfect as ever, providing the right amount of sharp wit, spirited dialogue and intense plot to make the book a joy to read from beginning to end."
Lassiter is a former pro football player, a second-string linebacker best known for scoring a safety, and a current Miami/Dade County defense attorney whose clients are generally the bottom of the dregs. Lassiter is regarded around the courthouse as a pariah, a status that encourages rather than diminishes his pit-bull representation of those under his protection. LASSITER gives the world a peek into the man’s pre-legal career, focusing on an unfortunate evening during his college years when he had the opportunity to do the right thing and did not. That particular incident comes back to the present to haunt Lassiter dramatically when he is confronted by an angry female in the courthouse.
The woman is Amy Larkin, and she is a beautiful vision with an angry disposition. Lassiter, it seems, was one of the very last people to see Amy’s sister, Krista, alive before her unexplained disappearance some 18 years previously. Krista, who had not quite attained her majority, was a runaway who had acquired a dubious stardom as a porn actress. Lassiter, if he had committed a single act of kindness for her, might have made a difference in her life. He chose not to; in the present, he feels the necessity to make amends.
Dealing with a distraught Amy, Lassiter begins to follow a very cold trail that heats up very quickly. He soon finds himself at odds with Alex Castiel, a Miami prosecutor who has his eyes set on higher office. Lassiter’s request to reopen the case of the missing woman falls on Castiel’s deaf ears; In fact, Castiel warns Lassiter off the case, a state of affairs that only makes Lassiter pursue it even more doggedly. He soon discovers that Krista’s link to Charles Ziegler, an adult film producer, leads back to Max Perlow, a crime boss with ties to the infamous Meyer Lansky. Ziegler, who has transformed himself into a (semi-) legitimate philanthropist, knows more than he is telling about Krista’s disappearance, as does Perlow and, well, just about everyone, really.
Lassiter’s efforts are further stymied when Amy is charged with murder. He is tasked with defending her, but his client is her own worst enemy, given that she has an alibi she won’t reveal. Additionally, it’s tough to establish your innocence when your own attorney hands the prosecution its own best argument against your defense. Still, Lassiter is at his best when he’s cornered, down and bloodied.
You will want to buy two copies of LASSITER: one to read and keep pristine, the other to underline and mark up. Levine lets rip with some marvelously funny turns of phrase during the course of the book, and you will want to note these, dropping them casually into conversation. While a strong element of humor runs through these pages, it is also a great crime story with a rumpled, believable protagonist. If you’ve read Levine and Lassiter before, you know that already; the uninitiated are on the verge of a great discovery.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on September 13, 2011