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If there’s one character I love spending time with, it’s the heroic anti-hero. Someone whose biggest triumphs come not from conquering some nefarious villain — although he does manage to get some righteous licks in — but from conquering his own tricky, confounding, paradoxical nature. To paraphrase the newest incarnation of Sherlock Holmes, just because these guys are on the side of the angels, don’t make the mistake of thinking they are angels.
Enter Kevin Corvelli, criminal defense attorney extraordinaire, hotshot protagonist of Douglas Corleone's third novel, Last Lawyer Standing. Typically fresh from some dicey shenanagin, Mr. Corvelli carries trouble in pocket. He curses, dodges, and gets knifed or hit or threatened a lot. He’s well acquainted with both pills and liquor. And he’s exactly who you’d want showing up in court for you, because whether you’re innocent or guilty, he’s there to defend you to the best of his ability.
And while one sharp attorney, he’s also a crackerjack sleuth. He has to be, especially in this, his third outing after the equally sharp One Man’s Paradise and Night on Fire, the first and second novels in this series. It’s a juggling act from the first page, and Corleone is a master at keeping those balls in the air. Judges, clients, hookers, gangsters, bad cops, good cops, assassins, politicians — they all circle like sharks as Corvelli struggles to acquit his perpetual client Turi Ahina of a murder charge while simultaneously serving as counsel to the governor of Hawaii, caught up in a scandal of mistresses, money and murder most foul. Throw in a mafia scion who needs babysitting and a gorgeous AUSA with a recent divorce, and it’s all Corvelli can do to keep the cat fed.
No fears. The cat does not go hungry. And readers will find satisfaction too. Corleone is a master plotter — the narrative never lets up, and the clues come faster than speedballs. The Hawaii that serves as a backdrop functions more as a character than setting, complete with its own tics and eccentricities — you might not want to live in Corvelli’s version of paradise, but you’ll find yourself enjoying a temporary visit with him as your guide. The voice is snarky and smart and authentic, self-aware but not the least bit self-righteous. I mean, how can you not love a character who says, “Somehow . . . I’d grown a conscience with respect to my motives in the courtroom, and it was going to kill my client. What the hell had I been thinking?”
One big theme in the Corvelli series is the moral quandary that comes from serving the ideal of truth and justice by defending the lying and guilty. Even Corvelli has his standards, and they complicate his job and his life in ways that even his clever maneuvering can’t always evade. It’s a hard profession he’s chosen — little wonder he daydreams of tending bar — but his challenges are our gain. I’ll buy a ticket to whatever ride Corleone offers as long as Kevin Corvelli is sitting in the seat next to me.
You can read more about Douglas Corleone on his website: www.douglascorleone.com.
Recommended Beverage Pairing: Anything but red wine (read the book — you'll get it). How about a nice tall beer instead, something locally brewed? A clean and hoppy IPA perhaps?
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Tina Whittle is a mystery writer living and working in the Georgia Lowcountry. The Dangerous Edge of Things, her first novel, debuted February 2011 from Poisoned Pen Press, followed in March 2012 by Darker Than Any Shadow. Described by Publisher’s Weekly as a “tight, suspenseful debut,“ this Atlanta-based series features gun shop owner Tai Randolph and corporate security agent Trey Seaver. The third book in the series —Blood, Ash and Bone —is available now for pre-order at Amazon. Visit tinawhittle.com for more information, including a schedule of appearances.