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Falls the Shadow

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

As in his first two crime novels, William Lashner's protagonist in Falls the Shadow is Victor Carl, a talented wise-cracking lawyer who admits to his selfishness and who flees commitment. For monetary reasons, he and his partner, Beth Derringer, agree to seek a second trial for François Dubé, a chef and womanizer convicted of killing his estranged wife. He also agrees to take on a pro bono case, representing Daniel Rose, a four-year-old with a missing sister, a loving but ineffective mother, and her boyfriend, who is a control freak. The third ingredient in this recipe is Bob, a dentist who likes to help people, even if it means breaking the law. In the novel nothing is quite as it seems, and Victor, who prides himself on avoiding legal snares, is tricked by an old high school nemesis and a blonde bombshell.

Victor has an unlikely ally in “Pork Chop,” a skinny old chess player who cares about Daniel, but the people Victor should be able to rely on are responsible for Dubé being framed. A police detective withholds a confession; and Dubé's attorney collaborates with the detective. These acts are committed by people who care, just as Bob's caring leads unintentionally to other crimes. Victor comes to suspect Bob, his and everyone else's dentist, of being the murderer, but he is wrong, just as he is wrong about the involvement of Reverend Wilkerson, whom he suspects has sold Daniel's sister, but who in fact has given her to a wonderful family.

“The road to Hell is paved with good intentions” could well be the theme of this novel, but it is also about caring. As Bob describes him, Victor is like a souped-up car that is empty inside. By the time the loose ends are tied up and Bob has fled to do good elsewhere, Victor has come to realize the ambivalence of Bob's position.