Solomon vs. Lord by Paul Levine
(Bantam, $5.99, NV) ISBN 0-440-24273-8
*****
When you check out a TMR review, you expect to find gruesome death, rampant crime, evil run amok. You don’t expect to read that the reviewer was laughing out loud before the end of the first chapter. But Solomon vs. Lord is a book that doesn’t fit the standard formula. It’s what you get if you take some Scott Turow or John Grisham, mix with a generous dose of Carl Hiaasen and Dave Barry, and add some Hepburn-Tracy repartee as foreplay and a cast of oddball supporting characters. Call it a legal thriller romantic comedy.

Fortunately, it appears to be only the first book in a new series by Paul Levine, author of the Jake Lassiter series, because this one book isn’t nearly enough.

In the opening scene Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord are in a holding cell after being cited for contempt of court. Victoria is prosecuting Steve’s client for breaking import laws. Victoria is country club, Ivy League, engaged to a solid local businessman. Steve is no class, bottom tier school, a two-bit lawyer with change left over. What redeems him is that he is devoted to his nephew Bobby, an autistic savant, whom he rescued from an abusive situation. In a last ditch effort to save his client, Steve pulls a stunt that yanks Victoria’s chain, and her boss, the egocentric district attorney, fires her.

Victoria’s fiancé Bruce urges her to become counsel to his avocado business, but she resists. She decides to open her own practice. Her first client will be Katrina Barksdale who is suspected of having murdered her husband during kinky sex. Steve, however, outmaneuvers her and gets to Katrina first; the two of them will represent Katrina.

Meanwhile, Victoria is stubbornly insisting that Bruce is the right man for her, isn’t he? Steve’s family situation is becoming more complicated. He is uncomfortable around his father, an ex-judge who left the bench until a cloud of impropriety. A lawyer with Family Services with the eager cooperation of a medical expert is threatening to remove Bobby from Steve’s custody. Steve is going to need Victoria’s assistance if he is to win the legal battles of his life.

Devoted readers of fiction will not be surprised that two such different people as Steve and Victoria are inevitably destined to wind up together, but it’s the comic twists and turns along the way that make Solomon vs. Lord such a winner. The narrative is written in third person point of view from both Steve’s and Victoria’s perspective giving insight into just how far apart they are. In real life, these two wouldn’t have much of a chance at a happily ever after, but fiction loves an odd couple.

Have I missed a signal? Shouldn’t she be warming up by now?

“I’ll bet any relationship you’ve had, the woman always ended it,” she said.

“My nephew lives with me and scares most women off,” Steve said.

He scares them off?”

“He’s kind of a reverse chick magnet.”

“That sort of thing genetic?” she asked.

Readers familiar with the Jake Lassiter series will notice some similarities between Lassiter and Solomon – a sports career background, low class lifestyle, Miami setting –but where there are occasional glimpses of humor in the Lassiter series, this new series ratchets up the comedy several levels. At the same time, the two legal cases – Katrina’s criminal case and Bobby’s custody battle–demonstrate the author’s attorney background – they’re solidly grounded in legal procedure.

A TMR rating is an indication of how a particular title compares to similar books, but it’s hard to assign a rating to a book that is pretty much in a class by itself. My mental debate as to what rating to give Solomon vs. Lord was settled when I realized I’ve already recommended it to several people and will be passing it on to friends and family members as a you-gotta-read-this-one. That puts it at the top of the chart. It may not be a great book, but it’s great fun and and that counts for a lot. It definitely stands out from the crowd. I’m recommending this one to everyone!

--Lesley Dunlap


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