Publisher : Little Brown
Year Published : 2009
No Pages : 356
Rating : 4 stars
I decided I was lucky enough to have discovered Mark Gimenez when I read his debut novel, The Color of Law and made a mental note to keep watch for his subsequent book. Unfortunately bush telegraph system of my mind went bung and I missed his next 2 books before getting hold of The Common Lawyer. Everything that I remembered enjoying about Gimenez’s captivating writing style was repeated here in this new legal thriller.
The Common Lawyer is a nicely constructed suspense thriller that mixes an off-beat light heartedness with a more sobering social commentary and serious look at childhood terminal illness. As with his other novels, Gimenez uses the backdrop of Austin, Texas as his setting, particularly the more peculiar local section known as SoCo – being short for south of the Colorado River.
The protagonist of The Common Lawyer is Andy Prescott but he’s not the usual big shot lawyer earning squillions in a major law firm. He is a small-time traffic ticket lawyer who specializes in getting his clients’ out of paying their speeding tickets for a hundred bucks a pop. His motivation is not the love of his job, it’s the desire for a top-of-the-range mountain bike and he gets his adrenaline rush by shredding the dirt trails in the hills outside of town.
Andy Prescott is the kind of unassuming guy you find it easy to root for, but he’s also the kind of guy who is gullible enough to believe just about anything. When billionaire businessman Russell Reeves approaches Andy to do his legal work for a development project in SoCo, he conveniently overlooks the fact that Reeves could have afforded any better credentialed lawyer he wanted.
Suddenly, the world is Andy’s oyster as the money begins rolling in thanks to the work from Reeves. The job has expanded to some extra work for the rich man. Andy is asked to track down 17 women, supposedly former girlfriends of Reeves and report back everything he can find out. What Andy finds out is that there is a similarity attached to each of the women he finds that is too great to ignore and he begins to grow increasingly apprehensive about the fact that he is being used.
What we know is that Russell Reeves has a son who is dying of cancer. We also know that there are some other people looking for the same women that Andy is looking for and those doing the finding are dying. It turns out that although Andy is getting paid a lucrative amount of money, he may not be around long enough to enjoy it.
The Common Lawyer asks the burning question: How far would you go to save your child’s life? The tone of the story reaches a state of desperate urgency replacing the early easy going banter that was enjoyed while getting to know Andy and his friends whose primary concern had been finding a girl willing to date them.
There are some powerful moments in the book, particularly in the awareness of the inevitability of death, made all the more moving because the knowledge was expressed by a child.
Danger comes in the form of a hired killer looking to take out Andy and the chase sequence in the latter part of the book is transparently telegraphed in the opening chapter of the book. This doesn’t detract from the plotting at all, in fact I was anticipating the fact that it would happen and wasn’t disappointed.
The Common Lawyer is a fast-paced thriller that should appeal to a wide ranging audience. It’s a legal thriller but without the procedure, an action thriller minus the highly accomplished professional hero and a moral lesson without the highbrow preaching tone that can be overbearing. There is a well hidden mystery behind the action that is worth waiting for. It hits the mark as a compelling story that flows smoothly from start to finish.
A complete rundown of books is available on the Mark Gimenez page.