|Joel Goldman: Motion to Kill|
(Paperback) ISBN 0-7860-1447-42
If you don't get further than the first twenty pages or so of this legal thriller…
Well, the trouble is it's difficult to get through those first couple of dozen pages, but thereafter you find yourself reading a moderately enjoyable romp.
For most lawyers, making partner signals entry into the good life. Not so for Lou Mason, a painfully smart smartass and the most recently arrived partner of the law firm Sullivan & Christenson. The firm survives largely on the business brought to it by senior partner Richard Sullivan, who in short order turns up drowned.
The police call the death murder. Fab babe cop Kelly Holt investigates, and Mason insinuates himself into her investigation partly for self-protection. (In addition to being a possible suspect, Mason may be next on the murderer's hit list.) But Mason also hopes to insinuate himself into something quite different.
Prior to Sullivan's murder, Mason nearly resigned, because he realized that much of Sullivan's business was crooked. In the wake of Sullivan's murder, it becomes increasingly evident that the corruption extended far further through the firm than Mason could ever have envisaged. Mason teams up with fab babe lawyer Sandra Connelly -- who never displayed much interest in Mason before but now seems to be throwing herself at him -- to try to salvage as much of the firm as possible. Meanwhile, the body-count inexorably rises.
The double dose of fab-babery proves a bit hard to credit, especially given Mason's exceptionally rebarbative, incessant line of smartasshood. (His chat-up lines might impress high schoolers, but a grown-up woman like Kelly would surely just want to smack him one on the nose.) Several plot elements strain plausibility more than a trifle, but otherwise, Motion to Kill provides a large amount of fun stuff, and the pages keep turning at a satisfactory pace.
In purely technical terms, the writing comes across as somewhat amateurish, with a plethora of unheralded changes in point-of-view, which make some passages hard to follow. Overall, indeed, the novel desperately needs the attention of a good editor. Even a good copy-editor would have been useful. Any diligent editor would have done something about those opening pages; the opening chapter or two would serve well in a creative writing class as an example of What Not To Do.
If you want another Scott Turow, John Grisham, or especially Marianne Wesson, then you'll need to look a bit further than Motion to Kill. David Baldacci fans, though, may find this -- which is, let us remember, Goldman's first novel -- at least comparable and probably a step up. Certainly, Goldman seems worth some investment of a reader's persistence for future, hopefully more polished works. I definitely plan to read his succeeding novels, The Last Witness and the forthcoming (February 2004) The Cold Truth.
Let's keep our fingers crossed that Pinnacle will give him an editor for those. It is, after all, what publishers are for.
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