WILLIAM LASHNER – Hostile Witness. Victor Carl #1. HarperCollins, hardcover, 1995. Harper, paperback, 1996.

   Well, well – a book about a Philadelphia lawyer by a Philadelphia lawyer, and a first novel to boot. Be still, my fibrillating heart, HarperCollins thinks this is going to be a biggie.

   Victor Carl is six years out of law school and beginning to understand that he’s not going to make it big. Then one of the city’s most prestigious firms asks him to replace a lawyer who died as defense fir a politician’s right-hand man. Both are coming to trial on racketeering charges, but though the case against them looks strong, the high-powered firm isn’t worried, and just wants Victor to sit at the table and be quiet.

   He has qualms, but the lure of money and prestige is too much, and he accepts. It doesn’t take him too long to realize that the price he pays may be more that the price he gets.

   This isn’t a really bad book, though it’s far from a good one, and pre-Grishan I doubt that anyone would have thought it could be a hit. Victor Carl is decently-realized character, if not a particularly fine human being. The story is an adequate one, if nothing new, and Lashner’s pacing is good, as is his prose for the most part.

   Some of the characters are a bit on the exaggerated side, and you don’t have to worry about telling the good guys from the bad – though there are damned few of the former. There’s a good bit of steamy sex, a soupcon of violence, and some decent courtroom dramatics.

   If you like the type, you could do worse. You probably have.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #19, May 1995.


      The Victor Carl series —

1. Hostile Witness (1995)
2. Bitter Truth (1997)
3. Fatal Flaw (2003)
4. Past Due (2004)
5. Falls the Shadow (2005)
6. Marked Man (2006)
7. A Killer’s Kiss (2007)
7.5 A Bite of Strawberry (novella, 2013)
8. Bagmen (2014)