Steve Cavanagh's debut crime novel is a legal thriller set in New York City, mostly at the Manhattan courthouse on Chambers Street. It's a page-turner, at a wild pace, and full of twists, suspense, exhilaration, and highly satisfying conclusions. I would never have guessed THE DEFENSE was a debut -- but then again, Cavanagh has been writing for years ... as a lawyer in Belfast, Ireland.
It's not all that unusual for a British author to place a crime novel in the United States. And some authors seem to switch-hit on both sides of the Atlantic -- consider John Connelly, Irish but setting his Charlie Parker detective series in Maine. Then think about Adrian McKinty, another Belfast author who's also lived in Australia and the US. As it happens, Cavanaugh's first US debut, for a short story, came in the collection Belfast Noir, co-edited by McKinty and another extraordinary Belfast author, Stuart Neville.
All of which are great signs for what Cavanagh can produce, given the company he keeps! But if I hadn't checked on him, I never would have guessed Irish from reading the adept switches among New York urban dialects and the language of the Russian mob in THE DEFENSE.
Here's the premise: Eddie Flynn used to be a con man, but a situation changed his direction to law school and he practiced law for nine years. As THE DEFENSE opens, that hasn't been an option for months now -- some kind of disaster in one of his cases gave him a shove into deep alcoholic self-pity, his marriage is on the rocks, his 10-year-old daughter can't see him much, and he's definitely not going back to court as an attorney.
Except: Suddenly the Russian mob has him wired into a jacket of explosives and is demanding his performance at the courthouse -- starting now! -- and to make sure Eddie won't just yield to his king-size case of despair and opt for suicide by Russian mobster, they've kidnapped his daughter.
Eddie's life has been is a roller coaster of strengths and mistakes. But it happens he does know how to handle having psychopathic mobsters as criminal defense clients. Good thing, because he needs to be at the top of his game almost instantly, against a clever and well-prepared prosecutor, for the life of his little girl.
"Is Mom there with you? Can I ... please ... I want to talk to her. I want you ... I want you and Mom to come get me, please. I love you. Please come get me, Daddy ... please ..." She broke down completely, each shrill cry bringing her closer to hysterics. Her sobs grew fainter as the phone was taken from her.What would you do under that level of threat? Yep. So will Eddie. And it looks like an impossible task, but after all those years, Eddie does have a few friends, and at least one of them is in the same courthouse.
A top-notch thriller with relentless suspense and highly memorable! And although the finale put a bit of a dent in my own recent memories of that same courthouse, I have to admit it's a good fit. I'm looking forward to more from Steve Cavanagh ... and I see his next crime novel, The Plea, is scheduled for next March. Nice to have Flatiron Books (linked to Orion and Macmillan) bringing these across the "pond."
This post first appeared on Kingdom Books, Mysteries -- Classic To Cutting Edg, please read the originial post: here