Ready for the Defense
Review: As heroes go, thirty-two-year-old criminal defense lawyer and amateur sleuth, Hank Fisher, of Mike Langan's second novel Ready for the Defense is more marshmallow than hard-boiled. And his first-person story of finding his boss's killer and defending a federal Senator in Washington DC in an IRS investigation is often like a routine between a Jewish stand-up comic and a Mickey Spillane wannabe, but with Fisher as far more of a punching bag than Spillane ever was. Still in all, it's a good, fast-paced, action-oriented story for today's times with its focus on Washington scandals, terrorism attacks, racial profiling and biological warfare.
When his story begins Fisher's got a lot going for him. A former English teacher with a Jewish mother and an Episcopal minister father, he's embarking on a promising career with a bear of a boss, six-foot, five inch 300 pound Mac MacPherson, a great guy and a great mentor with a great family. But not too many pages along, and Fisher's world crumbles when a speeding car crashes into Mac, Fisher, and Senator Victoria Serling, the duo's newest client and candidate for the CIA Director's position as they prepare to meet to discuss allegations of fraud against the Senator. Mac is killed, the Senator hospitalized in a coma, and while Fisher narrowly escapes serious injury, he's left on his own to defend the Senator and discover who targeted her and Mac. It's a tough assignment given his inexperience, a dearth of clues, and a public allegation Mac has bribed a juror. There's increasing tension, too, between him, the local police, FBI agents "Rice and Beans", and various special interest racial and religious groups in Washington. As well, he's lugging the memory of an older teenaged brother who died years ago in a car crash, and he's dodging a female client's husband who wants to beat him up because of a restraining order he secured for her. He gets support, though, from friend and ex-cop Roger Lynch and Dr. Amelia Fuentes, Senator Serling's niece and his attending physician during his brief stay in the hospital after the hit-and-run. The Senator's husband, Dr. Larry Marshall, the former owner of the biopharm giant, Panacea, is helpful too, even if controlling. As the story progresses, support strengthens from Roger and Amelia but dirty dealings at Panacea lead to increasing suspicion about Marshall and the new owners, as well as some of the Senator's own staff and employees at the firms Fisher and Roger investigate. In the end, however, Fisher gets it right and after bending and even breaking a couple of laws his marshmallow centre hardens into hardboiled righteousness. With Mac's murder avenged, the Senator cleared and discharged from the hospital, and Amelia trusting him after a tiff about lying to her, he partners with Roger to form "DC's newest white collar crime investigator firm," despite his mother's admonition, "Nobody likes a snoop, dear. It's only one step above being a pawnbroker."
Ready for the Defense, following on the heels of Langan's first novel, Dark Horse, is a pleasant enough debut for English teacher turned lawyer turned snoop, Hank Fisher. Whether he continues on at "one step above being a pawnbroker" remains to be seen.
Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham (firstname.lastname@example.org) for contributing his review of Ready for the Defense.
Acknowledgment: Mike Langan provided a copy of Ready for the Defense for this review.
Review Copyright © 2008 — M. Wayne Cunningham — All Rights Reserved
Reprinted with Permission
Location(s) referenced in Ready for the Defense: Washington DC
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Ready for the Defense by Mike Langan
Publisher: Treble Heart Books
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: May 2008
List Price: $13.50