01 January 2007

Book Review: The Mayor of Lexington Avenue by James Sheehan

The Mayor of Lexington Avenue A small town in Florida is the setting for James Sheehan’s The Mayor of Lexington Avenue. Bass Creek, to be precise, where a woman has been murdered, and the detective in charge and the state attorney are both as crooked as corkscrews. Which is bad news for Rudy Kelly, pleasant but slow, who finds himself on a one-way trip to maximum security.

Ten years later, two months from execution, the case comes to the attention of a lawyer once dubbed the “Mayor of Lexington Avenue” by his oldest friend, who just happens to be Rudy’s father. About to retire to Bass Creek, Jack packs up his office and his secretary and launches into action on an appeal. But can he convince the court to grant a stay of execution? Can he manage to nail Wesley Brume and Clay Evans IV to the wall for their part in the travesty? And can he stay alive?

For it is soon clear that there is a piece of information connected to the case that someone doesn’t want known. Information that they have killed for already, and may kill for again. This suspense, plus wonderfully-drawn characters and clever legal manoeuvring in the courtroom, all contribute to a, well, killer story.

Part One, the murder and “investigation”, was the slowest section of the book as the real action was yet to begin, but the characters and wit kept the pages turning briskly. Thanks to the characterisation, the conviction had a real sense of inevitability. Later it became truly unputdownable. Providing some respite from the courtroom tension were a couple of romantic subplots, and the fact that these involved characters who had firmly arrived at middle age made a refreshing change from the Beautiful People one so often encounters. As for the hero, well, you’ve gotta love a bloke who isn’t afraid to cry and who can handle an AK-47.

At the end of the book I was left with just a few little quibbles, some loose ends never quite tied up. There were a couple of deaths were murder was never proven, much less a killer identified; a lead never followed up; another death where the killer and motive were never identified. Though the latter case did contribute to a leave-them-wondering ending.

Rating: A-

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Header image shows detail of A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, c. 1776