The Only Good Lawyer

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Jeremiah Healy’s novel of Boston investigator John Francis Cuddy will please his old fans and acquire a few new ones. Its plot is original and timely, and its characters are well drawn. Once more Cuddy must weigh his personal integrity against expediency, and once more his unrelenting search for truth uncovers old skeletons.

In THE ONLY GOOD LAWYER a well-known young African American attorney, Woodrow Wilson Gant, is murdered, to all appearances by the loudmouth bigot Alan Spaeth, whose wife’s divorce has been handled by the attractive and seductive Gant. Cuddy dislikes the ignorant racist Spaeth, but intuition tells him Spaeth is not guilty. He reluctantly agrees to investigate the case. However, seeking the truth jeopardizes his relationship with Nancy Meagher, the beautiful and empathetic lawyer who is helping Cuddy to cope with his grief over his wife’s death from cancer. Meagher has personal reasons for not wanting the case investigated too deeply.

As usual, Cuddy’s investigation reveals a tangled skein of motives and possibilities, and leads to more deaths. The body count is quite high, worthy of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels. Another drawback, for those who prefer less violence and more of the interpersonal, is that the romance is quite literally put on hold— Nancy will not have anything to do with Cuddy until the investigation is over, which makes her a marginal character in this story. Still, the book is an excellent read. The suspense is well maintained through the twists of the plot, the Boston atmosphere adds a realistic, unobtrusive sense of place, and the conclusion is truly satisfying—unexpected but absolutely appropriate.