There’s a lot of great thinking going on in To Speak for the Dead, the novel that first introduced former Miami Dolphins linebacker turned lawyer Jake Lassiter to the world. Unfortunately for Lassiter, there’s a fair bit of questionable thinking going on as well.
The book opens with Lassiter defending Dr. Roger Salisbury in a civil malpractice suit brought by Melanie Corrigan, widow of wealthy developer Philip Corrigan. It’s the widow’s contention that Salisbury’s negligence caused a ruptured aorta resulting in her husband’s death. With the help of testimony from his friend and expert witness Dr. Charlie Riggs, retired after 20+ years as Miami-Dade’s Chief Medical Examiner, Lassiter secures a verdict in favor of Salisbury. Case closed, book over. Right?
Wrong. Author Paul Levine is just getting started, and you ain’t read nothing yet. Salisbury has barely cleared the courtroom before Corrigan’s daughter, Susan, informs Lassiter that Salisbury and Melanie have actually known each other for ages, and it’s Susan’s contention they conspired together to kill her father. The lawsuit is just a smokescreen.
Not willing to sit back and let Susan stir up trouble unopposed, Melanie goes on the offensive with accusations of her own, and before Lassiter knows it he and Riggs are performing an illegal exhumation of Philip’s body in effort to get to the bottom of things…that’d be some of the addled, questionable thinking.
There’s absolutely no question, however, about how enjoyable a read To Speak for the Dead is. Paul Levine created something special in Jake Lassiter in this debut outing, and twenty years later the book more than withstands the test of time. Levine, himself an attorney, uses his intimate knowledge of the law and trial process to fashion some of the most engaging courtroom scenes you’ll ever read. Things are a tad flamboyant in some of the later courtroom scenes, but in a thoroughly entertaining way. (And as an attorney myself, trust me, you’d be bored to tears if a fictional trial was written the way most unfold in the real world.)
And Lassiter is exactly the kind of guy you’d want in your corner, in the courtroom or out of it. He may not be the smartest attorney in the courtroom, but he more than makes up for it with street smarts, heart, and undying commitment to whatever client or cause he gets behind. If you’ve never read any of the Jake Lassiter series before, now is the perfect time to start. And if you have, well, why not take a trip down memory lane and get reacquainted with where it all started. What better way to get ready for the next installment in the series, Lassiter, coming from Bantam in September?
To Speak for the Dead was originally released by Bantam in 1990. The 20th Anniversary e-book edition is available for $2.99, with all author proceeds going to Penn State’s Hershey Children’s Hospital for cancer treatment and research.