Flesh and Bones (Jake Lassiter Mystery) - Paul Levine I have always enjoyed Paul Levine’s books. They crackle with self-deprecating humor as well as provide a good legal drama/mystery. I haven’t read many of his Lassiter series, having concentrated on the Solomon/Lord series. Kip, who is constantly making reference to scenes and characters from movies, resembles his autistic nephew in his other series. A touch of humor never hurts.

Jake Lassiter is an ex-Miami Dolphin, a linebacker known mostly for the time when he recovered a fumble and then ran the wrong way having to be tackled by his teammates before disaster ensued. On another occasion he blocked an extra point attempt with his helmet. the ball getting stuck in his face mask. He wanted it considered a touchdown, but the refs ruled it a safety; it took two weeks to get the ball out of his helmet.

One night sitting at a bar with a friend, a blonde walks in and shoots and kills the man sitting on the next bar stool. Turns out the dead man was her father and Lassiter agrees to represent Chrissy Bernhardt.

Lassiter has a strict code of ethics: he won’t permit his clients or himself to lie. “I remembered what a writer once said about another lawyer, the disgraced and now deceased Roy Cohn: ‘He only lies under oath.’ Well, why not? That's when it counts.”

He represents all sorts of interesting, if sleezy, characters who often return the favor by helping him on his other cases. Roberto Condom was represented on a charge of smuggling dope in the intestines of boa constrictors. “When the constipated and ornery snakes were discovered by Customs, Roberto was charged with drug importation as well as cruelty to animals. Roberto showed up for trial with Bozo, his pet six-foot boa, curled around his neck, pleading that he loved snakes and would never do such a thing. The jury was out only twenty minutes, and Roberto walked. At Christmas, I was rewarded with a snakeskin jacket that looked familiar, but it took me three months to figure out that I hadn't seen Bozo in a while.”

Occasionally, Levine meanders off into making some kind of political observation. For example, I am not an environmental nut, believing in moderation in all things except consumption of Dutch beer. I am more pained by an inner-city child without a home than a heron without a nest. I don't understand people who treat a man sleeping in a cardboard box as if he were invisible but race across the street to curse at a woman wearing a fur. Sorry, but I care more about people than minks, which I always considered uptown rats. At the same time, I am opposed to fat-cat business-industrial types, such as a certain rotund, cigar-smoking radio host who calls people like Baker "environmental Nazis." There is a balancing to be done between the needs of a growing populace and the preservation of the wild. If I had to choose between Baker and those who would pave the wetlands, drill for oil on the reefs, and ravage the forests, count me with the tree huggers. Now while I might totally agree with him, it seems oddly placed and even though the story does have something to do with water rights, could have been more effectively integrated into the story.

Levine must have a rather jaundiced view of the legal system: Clients are customers, referral fees are kickbacks, experts are whores, and bondsmen are bloodsuckers. Client development is ambulance chasing. Pro bono work means getting stiffed for a fee. A retainer means "pay me now for work I may or may not do later." Lawyers' hourly bills are exercises in creative writing, in which our clients pay not only for our time but also for expensive lunches and dinners and the time we spend deciding what to order. Our "research time" often gets us paid to learn what we should have known or to relearn what we have forgotten.

In order to avoid any possibility of spoilers let me just say this one is fascinating with allegations of false memory, the possibility of implanted memory, a daughter killing her father, a trial with no question of the client’s guilt, a psychiatrist in love with the dead man’s wife, an uncle who wants his niece convicted, and a lawyer sleeping with his client.

Good story with page-turning trial dialogue.