A masterful debut novel updated and now available in eBook. The pace travels along the twists and turns of this murder mystery like the TR6 driven by it’s hero, Lou Mason. The plot is complex, filled with corporate corruption, dirty cops, organized crime, petty prosecutors, a crazed hit man, sexual tension and more ulterior motives from the characters than fountains found in Kansas city which is at the center of the action. Mr. Goldman somehow manages to make the complexity compelling and keep the reader breathless.
Lou Mason is a personal injury lawyer who just lost a big case representing a friend, injured on the job and now confined to a wheel chair. He was screwed over by a partner and quit his firm, haunted by this injustice.
Lou has joined the firm of Sullivan and Christenson, Corporate Law Firm, as their trial lawyer. One of his first clients is also the firms largest, Victor O’Malley who is under investigation for money laundering. The FBI and the U.S. Attorney have O’Malley cold and Lou knows it. He is approached by the senior partner, Richard Sullivan, during a corporate retreat at Lake of the Ozarks, to loose some documents that are key evidence to O’Malley’s guilt and Sullivan’s complicity in the scheme. He refuses for ethical reasons and decides to resign on Monday morning. But Sullivan is found dead, floating face down in the lake, and his boat is miles away. Murder is quickly suspected as the Sherriff, retired FBI agent Kelly Holt who had been in on the wire tapping of Sullivan’s office in an attempt to gather evidence on O’Malley. But her partner was suspected of corruption, and when he turned up dead, she retired under a cloud of suspension.
On the trip back to Kansas City, Lou is run off the road in what can only be a deliberate attempt to kill him. The surviving partners quickly appoint Lou to defend the firm, and O’Malley from the dogged investigation by the U.S. Attorney. But Lou quickly discovers that he has been set up by the dead Richard Sullivan who left memos accusing Lou of wanting to destroy the incriminating documents. This make Lou a suspect. He quickly discovers that almost everyone in the firm has a reason to have wanted Sullivan dead. A secretary who was being blackmailed for sex because she was caught stealing money from the firm. Scott Daniels, the ‘friend’ and partner that brought him into the firm and may have pushed for him to investigate just to make him the fall guy. Sullivan’s wife who, he had been cheating on, the list of suspects is endless, including the mob whose money O’Malley and Sullivan may have been laundering and their hired hit man Camaya.
The plot takes another twisting turn when the other senior partner, Harlan Christenson turns up murdered and Lou, along with his allies, Blues – a retired cop and jazz piano player, Sherriff Kelly Holt, who forms a tense sexual relationship with Lou but is operating under the cloud of her dead partners sins, Sandra Connelly – the other partner seemingly set up by Scott, who may have secrets of her own to hide all try to dodge the hit man, the U.S. Attorney and figure out all the disparate motives for the murders, as well as the complicity of the law firm.
The ending is a surprise but fulfills Raymond Chandlers rule of the solution, once revealed, must seem to be inevitable. It is masterfully presented, and happily lacks the easy contrivances often relied upon in a debut novel. There was one glaringly obvious mistake I was surprised it wasn’t caught with this updated version of the original 2002 debut of Lou Mason. Towards the end of chapter 63 there is this piece of description, --“He opened the glove compartment and removed a blue steel revolver. “It’s a Sig Sauer .45 caliber,” he explained as he loaded the clip , slid the safety to off, and handed it to Mason.” --You don’t slide clips into revolvers, nor do they have safeties. But other than that small technical detail, the book is very well written, and laid out marvelously for an eBook. The cover art is sharp and very professional as is the copy editing. Joel Goldman builds great and interesting characters, drives the story with both smart and sarcastic dialogue, knows the land scape well, from the streets and night spots of Kansas City to the back roads of the farmland and country side. And somehow managed to weave a complex plot into a story you won’t get lost in and won’t be able to put down. I can’t wait to read the other Lou Mason novels, “Cold Truth” & “ The Last Witness” as well as Joel’s other works.
His first book, Motion To Kill, in 2002, introduced trial lawyer Lou Mason. Lou made his second appearance in 2003's Edgar®-nominated The Last Witness. He managed to keep getting in and out of trouble in Cold Truth (2004) and Deadlocked (2005), which was nominated for a Shamus award and has been optioned for film. Look for his short story, Fire In the Sky, in the anthology Top Suspense: 13 Classic Stories by 12 Masters of the Genre which I reviewed on my Crime Fiction Blog Crimeways back in March. he also writes a series featuring Public Defender, Alex Stone as well as a series featuring former FBI Special Agent Jack Davis, beginning with Shakedown (2008). Follow Joel's blog, What's Shaking?, and find out what's on his mind about writing, publishing, life with a movement disorder and whatever else is shaking in the world around him.
The Dirty Lowdown