is a former journalist and lawyer who lives in Florida. He has won the John D. MacDonald Fiction
Award and been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, International Thriller,
Shamus, and James Thurber awards. His publishing career began in 1990
with the first novel about Jake Lassiter, a lawyer in Miami, Florida. Both
Levine and Lassiter are graduates of Pennsylvania State University, where the
fictional Lassiter played football for the famous Joe Paterno. Lassiter went on
to play professional football with the Miami Dolphins. Levine’s most recent legal
thriller about Lassiter, the thirteenth, is dedicated to Paterno.
(Herald Square Publishing, 2020) highlights the recent college
admissions scandal in which wealthy parents bribed top universities to admit
their children who otherwise would not be accepted. Jake Lassiter comes out of
retirement to defend his 20-year-old nephew Kip who has been accused of taking
SAT tests in the place of college applicants. Max Ringle, the mastermind of the
bribery and testing scam, turned informant as soon as he realized the FBI was
investigating and made Kip his scapegoat.
Lassiter is hardly at the top of
his game. His past as a football player has caught up with him and he’s been
diagnosed with progressive brain damage. His doctor and fiancé Dr. Melissa Gold
does her best to bolster him for the strain of the job he’s undertaken, but the
stress of defending his nephew exacerbates his visible symptoms. He can’t
always control them in the courtroom. His scenes with the unpredictable Federal
judge trying the case are among the best in what is a very good legal thriller.
Of course the pivotal segment is Lassiter’s questioning of the wealthy entitled parents and their spoiled children, most of whom
were not charged. They show themselves to be positively despicable, presenting
them as blameless in a racket that could not have existed without them.
A secondary theme is the largely
unrecognized but widespread brain trauma so many football players suffer; the
story relays a great deal of data about chronic
traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The attempts of interested parties to spin the
research findings to their own benefit and to the detriment of the players are
highlighted. Unfortunately this part is probably fact-based too.
A thought-provoking, informative, and entertaining legal thriller. Highly recommended.
Publisher: Herald Square
Publishing (April 20, 2020)
Paperback: 422 pages
Aubrey Nye Hamilton ©2022
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.