“Lust will make a fool of any man, but it is only love that can truly ruin him.” So says Victor Carl, the ethically adventurous Philadelphia lawyer who usually ends up doing the right thing, but, as his law partner says, often for all the wrong reasons.
Late one night Victor gets a panicked phone call from an old law school classmate. Guy Forrest claims he has just found the body of his fiancée lying murdered in the house they shared. The victim is Hailey Prouix, for whose love Guy had abandoned his children, his job, his wife, his life. Hailey had mesmerized every man she ever met—including, unbeknownst to Guy, Victor Carl. Convinced that Guy is Hailey’s killer, Victor agrees to represent him, all the while secretly vowing to see justice done, whatever the cost.
The plan would have to be dirty, base, vile, the plan would have to exhibit a complete lack of moral fiber in the soul of the deranged maniac who dreamed it up. I was just the man for the job.
But when Victor’s certainty begins to crack, he embarks on a quest that will take him from Philadelphia to Las Vegas to the valleys of West Virginia and back again. He digs further and further into Hailey Prouix’s past and discovers that nothing is as simple as it had seemed, especially the woman he thought he loved.
Who was Hailey Prouix? Behind the answer lurks a killer. As Guy’s murder trial heads toward its shattering conclusion, Victor must find the brutal truth before the mechanism of retribution he himself has set into motion falls like a hatchet, smack on his client’s head.
Fatal Flaw is a rare delight: a legal thriller with freshness and vitality, qualities too often lacking in this sometimes-tired genre. This third entry in the Victor Carl series opens with a bang, as Victor finds fellow lawyer Guy Forrest on the front stoop of his lover's house, stark naked in the pouring rain, a gun beside him, the lover's bloody corpse on the bed inside. He sure looks guilty--but then, little is as it looks in this exceedingly well-plotted tale. The first 30 pages alone deliver several jolting revelations that change what we thought we knew, and the surprises keep coming right up to the last few pages.
Fortunately, William Lashner is as fine a wordsmith as he is a plotter. The settings are crisply evoked, from Philadelphia and Las Vegas to the dirt-poor Appalachians. All the characters are vivid, and a few--including the murder victim--are well-nigh unforgettable. But it's the narrative voice of Victor Carl that really carries the book. Cynical, funny, streetwise, and ethically flexible, he's an exceptionally engaging guy. And, like some of the wisecracking private eyes he resembles, he can deliver both breezy sarcasm and real emotional power. My suggestion: Reach past those other legal thrillers and put Fatal Flaw at the top of your reading list. --Nicholas H. Allison