Book Talk: Steve Cavanagh, ‘The Plea’
Like Steve Cavanagh’s debut novel “The Defense,” some reviewers have described his second Eddie Flynn book, “The Plea” (2016, 376 pages) as a courtroom drama. It is, but it is so much more. In both books, Cavanagh provides a mix of brilliant courtroom strategy and taut action thrills. He’s like John Grisham and David Baldacci rolled together. I loved both books.
The opening line tells the reader that this is not a Perry- Mason-style story: “I thought everyone was dead.” A little further on, the protagonist, lawyer Eddie Flynn, says, “I didn’t hear the shot, didn’t see the muzzle flash…. I only felt the bullet ripping into my flesh.” Then he takes us back two days to explain what led up to his current predicament.
This story takes place several months after the events related in The Defense. Eddie is approached by a federal agent and coerced into representing David Child, the billionaire inventor of an algorithm that a prestigious law firm is using to launder money. However, David is not charged with embezzlement or some other white-collar crime. Eddie is assured that there is an open-and-shut case that David brutally murdered his girlfriend.
However, the feds don’t want Eddie to appear in court to fight the charge; they’re offering a lenient plea. And, there’s an added incentive for Eddie to grab the case from the elite law firm in question: his wife is an attorney who works for the firm, has signed a paper that is said to implicate her in the illegal operation, and she’ll spend the rest of her life in prison unless Eddie is successful in obtaining the plea from David.
When Eddie meets David, his gut tells him that David, who claims to be innocent, is telling the truth. But, as we’re reminded, court cases are not about truth; they’re about what can be proved and a jury believes. As Eddie begins to review the case, it is clear that there is a veritable mountain of evidence proving that David did it. Security cameras in his ridiculously expensive Manhattan apartment show him and Clara (his girlfriend) entering the apartment and only him leaving. Meanwhile, no one else could have possibly accessed his suite. As he leaves the apartment grounds, he’s involved in a fender-bender, and the attending police officer finds a gun on the floor of his car. Ballistics show that the bullets that killed Clara came from that gun.
Yet, Eddie maintains his claim of innocence, and a nearly maniacal District Attorney won’t accept a plea bargain. Without that agreement, Eddie’s wife will wind up in prison. And, as the plot begins to unfold, Eddie becomes convinced of David’s innocence, is determined not to send an innocent man to prison, and has an impossible timetable to figure out how to save both his client and his wife.
As if the dramatic tension weren’t enough to keep one turning pages, Cavanagh manages to pour Clarence Darrow into My Cousin Vinny’s shoes for the courtroom scenes. This is a great read, and I can barely wait for the next Cavanagh book to arrive on my doorstep.
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Jim Glynn may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.