Bum Rap, by Paul Levine. Thomas & Mercer. 350 pages. Trade paperback $15.95.
Paul Levine has done the inevitable, bringing together the lead players from his two popular series into a slick legal thriller. Steve Solomon, partner of Victoria Lord through four previous “Solomon vs. Lord” novels, is arrested for murder. Given the nature of the case, the partners feel that Jake Lassiter (whose series boasts ten previous titles) is the man for the job as chief counsel for Steve. The interplay among the three throws off plenty of sparks, as does their frantic striving to combat the prosecution’s case.
What’s going on? Steve had been hired by a gorgeous B-Girl, illegal Russian immigrant Nadia Delova, to help her obtain money she is owed by her employer, mobster Nicolai Gorev, who has also locked away Nadia’s passport. During a meeting in Gorev’s office, weapons are drawn and Gorev ends up shot to death. Steve’s fingerprints are found on the murder weapon, and gun powder traces are found on him.
In a confused panic, Steve confessed to the murder. From various perspectives, the narrative rehearses the facts as alleged by Steve and Nadia (not quite identical) and the facts as used, abused, and refused in various iterations of Jake’s proposed trial strategy. Though Jake is a stickler for the truth, he is also bent on winning every case and doing all he can for a client.
Did Steve pull the trigger accidentally? Did he pull it at all, or did the weapon simply misfire? Do these details make any difference with regard to murder charges if Steve is viewed as Nadia’s accomplice in a robbery? Can Steve change his story during the trial with any credibility?
Slowly, deliberately, and with uncanny humor, Mr. Levine uses this case to expose many slippery aspects of the legal system, including laws regarding criminal charges and sentences that seem to contradict one another.
The reader is blessed with a device that the author uses to add contextualizing background to the case: the piecemeal presentation of Nadia’s testimony in an interview with Deborah Scolino, an assistant U. S. district attorney. Scolino is investigating the Russian mafia-like enterprise that has Gorev as its front man and Benny the Jeweler as the ultimate boss.
Nadia’s testimony reveals the operations of Club Anastasia, run by the Gorev brothers, and the Q & A underscores how Nadia’s future is governed by how many charges against her will be dropped or reduced in exchange for her testimony against others, including Steve.
Illegal immigration, scamming customers who expect sexual favors while running up enormous bar bills with beautiful women, money laundering, and smuggling diamonds all figure in the enterprises under investigation. However, for Jake the case is all about proving Steve innocent. He will somehow use Nadia if he has to – she certainly has a much stronger motive than Steve Solomon – but he’d rather find another way. . . .
To enjoy the full review, as it appears in the July 1, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the July 2 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Bum Rap