Friday, July 08, 2011

The Anonymous Client
by JP Hailey (Parnell Hall)
ISBN: 978-1-936441-22-8,
e-book edition released 2011,
232 pages.

This is another fast-paced novel featuring criminal defense attorney, Steve Winslow. The protagonist is clever and so is the novel. It’s also slick, fast-paced, amusing and entertaining. The author has a good sense of his readers and their likely primary interests. He also has a good eye for detail and a finely-honed ability to use words to their maximum effect.

The novel begins and ends with personnel problems in Winslow’s office, a nice counterpoint to the main theme. The problem is a little fillip that adds some rhythm to the book. In the beginning, Winslow’s sole employee, Tracy Garvin, complains of being seriously underworked. That’s because her boss has a tendency to not appear in the office for weeks on end, and that’s because Winslow has few clients.

One day, as the novel opens, a letter arrives. It contains ten one thousand dollar bills. Thus is laid the basis for a very entertaining, very complicated murder and blackmail plot. As is the case with other novels in this series, the plot is a morass of mis-direction, tricky timing, private detectives, and a lot of both internal and external speculation and dialogue. The book is rife with minutia, details that enhance and color the reader’s perceptions of what has just happened, what it may mean and where the story is going next.

Set in New York City, Hall and his protagonist mine the rich variety of setting and character in mostly excellent ways. There is considerably less action in the novel than is often found in crime fiction except for the courtroom scenes which are among the most compelling I have ever read. Dialogue heavy, with sometimes arcane legal maneuvering; these scenes crackle with urgency and tension as we watch the nimble attorney skate along the edge of legal chasms while trying to save his client, sometimes without even knowing who his client is.

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