|Paul Levine’s legal thriller series, Solomon vs. Lord, is becoming increasingly less “legal” and increasingly more “thriller.” I don’t think that direction plays to the series’ strengths. It’s more interesting to see hero Steve Solomon use his wits in a courtroom than his fists in a life-or-death struggle. Still, although Kill All the Lawyers was my least favorite SvL novel to date, I still enjoyed its lively dialogue and flawed yet endearing characters.
Defense attorney Steve Solomon is accustomed to his life being weird. After all, his law office is in the same building as a sleazy modeling agency, his nephew can make anagrams out of any name, and his secretary spends more time pumping iron than answering phones. But finding a 300 pound marlin stuck through the peephole of his front door is odd even by his own standards. Steve quickly realizes the dead fish is a warning from Dr. William Kreeger, a former client who served six years in prison for involuntary manslaughter. Although Steve frequently bends the rules and creatively interprets the laws to help defend his clients, Kreeger is the only case that he fudged in order to lose.
Now Kreeger is out of jail and, as the host of a popular talk radio show, he’s not shy about excoriating Steve on the air. But does Kreeger hate Steve because he was an inept attorney or does he realize that Steve deliberately aided the prosecution? What sort of revenge could be planned by a man who has written a book insisting that murder is the essential human value?
Steve worries that his life might be in danger, but he has other problems as well. He’s planning to move in with his girlfriend and professional partner, Victoria Lord, but they can’t agree on the setting for their new home and Victoria seems to be developing a case of cold feet. Steve’s nephew Bobby is in the throes of adolescence; when he isn’t mouthing off, he’s mooning over his delectable “Juban” classmate, Maria Munoz-Goldberg. William Kreeger may be intent on destroying Solomon, but Steve may do a pretty good job of self-destructing before the amoral psychiatrist gets a chance to spring his trap.
Paul Levine is never anything but entertaining, and Kill All the Lawyers is definitely a quick, fun read. From Steve’s collection of raunchy, rude t-shirts (my favorite: “I’m not fluent in idiot, so please speak clearly”) to his outrageous legal actions (obtaining handicapped parking stickers for the models in his building on the grounds that bulimia is a disability), he’s a unique character who comes thisclose to being unbearably obnoxious. He’s redeemed, luckily, by his obvious love for Bobby, Victoria and his irascible father Herbert.
Unfortunately, lover and alleged partner Victoria Lord is shuttled to the background in this installment, with little to do besides serving as a sounding board for Steve’s crazy ideas about how to stop Kreeger. Her uncertainty about whether or not she wants to be with Steve, which dates back to the original Solomon vs. Lord, is becoming a very tired theme. It’s obvious that Levine is more comfortable writing male characters, but if the series is really about both Solomon and Lord he needs to give Victoria more of an equal, interesting role.
In my TMR review of the second Solomon vs. Lord novel, The Deep Blue Alibi, I expressed concern that the series was already moving too far away from its original legal setting, and I’m sorry to report that trend continues in Kill All the Lawyers. Some of the series’ wittiest, sharpest scenes have taken place in the courtroom – especially when Steve and Victoria try to work as a team despite their disparate approaches to the law – but this novel contains disappointingly little legal interaction. Steve wants the world to know the truth about Kreeger’s true nature, but the surprisingly dark climax takes place nowhere near a judge or jury.
The fourth Solomon vs. Lord novel is reportedly in the works, but unless the series starts to feature more Victoria and more genuine legal work, it may be my last read. The world doesn’t need any more generic thrillers. It needs Steve Solomon doing what he does best – working the law when the law doesn’t work – and more of Victoria Lord than just a pretty face.