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Past Due

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Victor Carl is not big on ethics and honesty; he is the first to tell you. He will do practically anything to keep his clients out of jail. He believes it is the prosecutor’s job to make a convincing case, and it is his job to throw monkey wrenches and fan faint embers into sufficient doubt so that his clients can walk free. Guilt or innocence, he tells readers, is not something he thinks about often or at length. Despite what he says, however, Victor is not exactly amoral or even very crooked; he is just playing the game to win because for him it is a game and he is very good at it. The smarter, cleverer person wins, and winning is better than losing.

When Joey Cheaps, a small-time hood and frequent client, takes a knife in the throat down on the waterfront, the only thing in Joey’s pockets is Victor’s card, so Victor is called to the scene. This presents a small problem. Before he died, Joey told Victor a terrible secret, one that may have something to do with his death. But Victor always stands by his clients no matter what—even if they are dead—so Victor tells the police he has nothing to give them.

Joey’s secret, Victor tells readers in the first pages of his story, got him started on the investigation that ultimately led to the court case that “you read about in the papers, the one with the Supreme Court Justice and those pictures of the naked woman, the one with the dead client and the kidnapped lawyer and the rotting old ship and the ghost reaching back from the dead to exact his revenge.”

Victor Carl is funny, jaded, smart, and, most of all, very good at turning bad situations worse—and then cleverly manipulating things to come out right in the end for everyone, including himself. Readers are going to be asking William Lashner for more of Victor Carl’s adventures among the lowlifes, petty criminals, lawyers, police, businessmen, and mobsters of The City of Brotherly Love.