Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Smith's first novel offers a superior blend of amateur-detective mystery and belated-coming-of-age novel cunningly masked as a legal thriller. Rookie lawyer Leo Maxell is shadowing his brother Teddy, a superstar San Francisco defense attorney, quickly becoming immersed in Teddy's courtroom magic and the constant rumors that Teddy's success is built on witness-tampering. Then, seemingly out of the blue, Teddy is gunned down in a crowded restaurant, and Leo must acknowledge that his brother has cultivated real enemies. SFPD detectives make it clear that they think Teddy had it coming, and Leo is left wondering whether the cops are running an investigation or exacting vengeance. Determined to find the shooter's motive, Leo becomes the Energizer Bunny of detection, relentlessly churning until he unburies a lead. Before long, he's found secret clients, suspicious behavior in Teddy's closest associates, and a duo of taser-wielding women lurking in Teddy's digs. Tenacity trumps technique—fortunately, because Leo is no sleuth. His search is more a desperate urge to connect with his untouchable big brother than a quest for justice, about which he is fairly ambivalent. Smith combines a smart but clueless protagonist forced to drop his naïveté; a gathering of well-drawn, equally motivated suspects; and, yes, some plot-furthering sex and violence. San Francisco's gritty streets and neighboring redwood forests add to the appeal, and the addictive characters and the quirky, sideways look at the system close the deal on a terrific debut. A perfect match with David Carnoy's novels and Michael Connelly's Mickey Haller series. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Library Journal Reviews

Leo Maxwell just received his bar licence and has been shadowing his older brother Teddy, a well known San Francisco criminal lawyer. The novel opens with Teddy being shot point blank in the head as the two brothers eat lunch in Teddy's usual restaurant. In the aftermath of the shooting, Leo faces a new reality and tries to sort the truth from the lies regarding Teddy's business practices, ethics, and private life; in addition, Leo realizes that if his brother survives, Teddy will never be the same man he once was. Because of Teddy's success as a criminal defense lawyer, the police don't seem interested in investigating his shooting, and Leo is determined to find the shooter himself. VERDICT This engaging debut by a practicing Alabama attorney features well-drawn if somewhat unlikable characters and enough plot twists to please any mystery fan. A good read-alike recommendation for readers who enjoy David Hosp and S.J. Bolton. [See Prepub Alert, 8/20/12.]—Lisa Hanson O'Hara, Univ. of Manitoba Libs.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews

Set in 1999, Smith's powerful legal thriller debut, the first in a series, grabs the reader by the throat and doesn't let go. At a San Francisco restaurant, where Leo Maxwell, a freshly minted attorney, has met older brother Teddy, a local legend as a defense lawyer, for lunch, Leo feels flattered when Teddy tells him, "I ought to let you close this one," a reference to the closing statement Teddy is soon to deliver in the case of Ellis Bradley, who's accused of raping his wife. Then a stranger comes up behind Leo and shoots Teddy in the head. This violent act, which puts Teddy in a coma with little chance for recovery, places Leo in the position of trying to serve Bradley's interests by avoiding a mistrial and carrying on in his brother's stead—and finding out the who and why of the murder attempt. Assured prose and taut plotting add up to a winner. Agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt & Hochman. (Feb.)

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