I don’t know Paul Levine, but we have a lot of mutual friends. I’d also never read any of his books until now. But several of the books in his series about Jake Lassiter, a defense lawyer and former pro football player in Miami, are now available for the Kindle, so I decided to give one of them a try. FOOL ME TWICE is from the middle of the series but works quite well as a stand-alone.
This one starts with Jake defending Blinky Baroso, an old acquaintance who’s a con man and swindler. Blinky is also the brother of the beautiful prosecutor Jo Jo Baroso, an old flame of Jake’s. Things get more complicated when Blinky’s partner in his current scheme turns up dead, and first Blinky and then Jake himself are suspects in the murder. Then Blinky disappears, Jake gets beaten up by a crazed treasure hunter from Colorado named Kit Carson Cimarron, and the action shifts from Florida to the Rocky Mountains, where Jake winds up on trial for murder. That brief description doesn’t really do justice to an appropriately twisty plot that races along at a very satisfying pace. Along the way we meet a lot of colorful characters, including Jake’s eleven-year-old nephew who’s a movie buff and aspiring filmmaker.
FOOL ME TWICE is an appealing blend of wacky, Florida-based crime novel (think Carl Hiassen), hardboiled detective yarn (Jake seems to get hit on the head as often as Mike Shayne), and legal thriller (there’s a lengthy courtroom scene late in the book that’s reminiscent of Perry Mason – I kept expecting Hamilton Burger to show up and shout, “Your Honor, Mr. Lassiter is making a circus out of this courtroom!”). More than anything else, though, it’s just really, really entertaining. Jake’s a fine, likable narrator/protagonist with a good supporting cast, and Levine’s prose is funny when it needs to be and tough when it needs to be, including an action-packed climax.
Levine is also the author of the acclaimed Solomon vs. Lord series of legal thrillers. Quite a few of his books are already available for the Kindle, and I think the rest are in the works. I plan to read more of them soon. In the meantime, FOOL ME TWICE gets a high recommendation from me.
(Paul Levine is a member of the Top Suspense Group.)