It is wonderful to have William Lashner back after too long of an absence. Lashner created a critically and commercially acclaimed series starring a Philadelphia lawyer named Victor Carl, whose life and attitude became slowly but progressively darker with each succeeding volume. THE ACCOUNTING takes place outside of the Carl canon; it is a stand-alone work that ranks easily among Lashner’s best, being a noirish cautionary tale about past sins and redemption, priority and appreciation.
"As with all the best thrillers, THE ACCOUNTING is loaded with action and suspense but is balanced with an equal measure of strong and compelling character development."
In two simple words, the title of the book speaks volumes about the story. Jon “JJ” Willing is the narrator, one of a trio of friends who, when they were young, reckless and foolish, robbed a drug dealer. It would be wrong to call their states of mind complacent, nearly three decades after the fact. They still speak to each other --- JJ in Philadelphia, Augie in Las Vegas, and Ben in Fort Lauderdale --- every week, ostensibly to keep in touch but also to make sure that they are still on this side of the veil. Everything changes dramatically on a fateful Tuesday when Augie fails to answer the call. JJ immediately flies to Vegas to check on his old friend, only to find that the audit on their past misdeed is in progress, and accounts are in the process of being paid in full --- and in blood.
As he freely acknowledges in the opening chapters, JJ is not a gunsel or torpedo. His life at the moment is on the downside, with his marriage all but finished and his children little more than familiar strangers. His career is in shambles, and his net worth is leaking like a sieve. One thing that he has done right is prepare for the all-but-inevitable situation that is now coming to pass. As JJ slowly and methodically makes his way from Vegas back to Philadelphia, he recounts the story of what led him to his present circumstances, going back to his childhood, through the impulsive, reckless and dangerous action of his youth that has put him in dire straits, and how that has affected his life over the course of almost three decades. Meanwhile, he is pursued by a foe who is nothing if not relentless, and will consider his offense of the past put paid only with his money and his life.
Among JJ’s few remaining assets are his wits and guile, as well as a slowly building desire to reacquire the life he had and carelessly threw away in dribs and drabs. It seems clear, practically from the beginning of the book, that things are almost certain to end badly for JJ. And yet, this is where Lashner’s talent really shows through as he keeps a ray of hope, however dim, shining throughout and leading JJ to his ultimate destiny, whatever that may be.
As with all the best thrillers, THE ACCOUNTING is loaded with action and suspense but is balanced with an equal measure of strong and compelling character development. The reader almost immediately comes to care about JJ, warts and all, particularly because of his loyalty to his friends as well as the basic decency that he possesses to his core, even though it occasionally has become lost (though never missing) along the way. For those of us who have missed Lashner’s offerings over the past few years, THE ACCOUNTING is certainly worth waiting for.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 17, 2013