Review: The Plea by Steve Cavanagh

An innocent client. A wife in jeopardy. A locked-room mystery. The Plea by Steve Cavanagh is the second book in the Eddie Flynn series.

Former con-artist Eddie Flynn is not your typical New York lawyer. His modus operandi owes everything to his years running cons. He’s broke, so his office moonlights as his residence. Eddie can’t afford a state-of-the-art security system—he goes old school.

The paneled front door to my building had been painted blue about a month ago. The reverse side of the door boasted a hand-cut, steel-back plate—a little surprise for anyone who thought they could kick through one of the panels and open the door from the inside.

It was that kind of neighborhood.

And it’s that kind of old-fashioned expertise that makes up Eddie’s toolkit. He’s always observing, comparing, and contrasting, never taking anything at face value. His dad was an artist at the art of the con.

I learned from him, and over time I’d developed a deft touch: a profound sense of weight, feel, and movement. My father called it “smart hands.” It was this finely honed sense that told me something was wrong.

What’s wrong? A key going into a lock with a “quieter and smoother” action than Eddie remembers. As always, Eddie has a solution: a dual-pronged alarm system of a dime and a toothpick. Anyone breaking in with expertise in tradecraft would hear the dime fall and replace it in the “hollowed-out section on the right-hand side of the doorframe.” But would a thief “notice the toothpick jammed precisely ten inches above the first hinge on the opposite side of the door?” Nope.

When Eddie spots the toothpick on the ground, he goes outside, looks up, and sees a “small, muted” beam of light in his office. Time to plan his entry. Not with guns blazing but with his own brand of “home defense products.” He charges the door with brass knuckles on his hands. Eddie was once a teenage boxer; he’s capable of doing a lot of damage. But fortunately for the men he attacks, Special Agent Bill Kennedy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation—a guy who owes Eddie his life—tells him to stop. The FBI wants Eddie to do them a favor. It’s an offer they feel he can’t refuse.

For years, major New York law firm Harland & Sinton has operated a massive global fraud. The FBI are on to them, but they need witnesses to secure their case. When a major client of the firm, David Child, is arrested for murder, the FBI ask con-artist-turned-lawyer Eddie Flynn to secure Child as his client and force him to testify against the firm.

Eddie's not a man to be forced into representing a guilty client, but the FBI have incriminating files on Eddie's wife, Christine, and if Eddie won't play ball, she'll pay the price.

Christine, Eddie’s estranged wife, is a lawyer at Harland & Sinton. The papers she signed when she joined the firm are enough to make her an accomplice to money laundering—ignorance being no excuse in the law. The Feds sweeten the deal.

“First, we will pay you one hundred thousand dollars. Cash. Tax-free. Not bad for a morning’s work. Second, and more important for you, do this for me and I won’t send your wife to a federal prison for the rest of her life.”

Unfortunate circumstances in his lawyerly past make Eddie an unusual advocate: he won’t represent a guilty party. However, he finds out that Child is the “forty-fifth-richest man in America,” and seemingly, he’s as “guilty as hell.” Is rescuing his wife from a disaster not of her making enough to change Eddie’s mind about not being a lawyer for a guilty person? What harm can it do to meet David Child? Child is in prison, but Eddie knows all the guards. He sits down with David and sets out to figure out the truth.

He was a mass of nerves, shock, and guilt. That made him near impossible to read. So I had to rely on my gut instead.

My first impression—this guy was no killer. But I’d been wrong before.

Eddie’s soon sure he’s not wrong when Child is stabbed in his cell. Someone wants Child dead. It’s time for the “bullet con,” the third type of con. The first, a short con, takes “between five minutes and five seconds to complete, and they’re low risk/low payoff.” Think a bar or a street pickpocket operation. A long con, the second type, can take months or even “a year to execute.” The payoff for the risk is the “potential for a big payday.” A bullet con is a “long con that’s condensed into a short time frame.”

Speed is the key to it, and it’s by far the riskiest method of operation. There’s little time to rehearse, to plan, to prepare. Inevitably, you’re flying by the seat of your pants most of the way. No one chooses to execute a bullet con unless something incredible falls in their lap…

Something incredible, or something that tests a person to his core? With threats on every side, Eddie relies on his allies, men and women who will go to the mat for him with little regard for niceties and nuance. They have his back—which is good because Eddie is on a perilous tightrope. He has 48 hours to prove his client is innocent, get his wife out of legal peril—and stay alive. Steve Cavanagh has ratcheted up the tension and suspense once again—first with The Defense, now The Plea. These are legal thrillers at their most nail-biting!

Read an excerpt from The Plea!


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Janet Webb aka @JanetETennessee has unpredictable opinions on books. Season ticket holder of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. Social media devotee. Stories on royals and politics catch my eye. Ottawa born. Grew up on the books of Helen MacInnes, Mary Stewart, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Anne Perry … I'm always looking for a great new mystery series.

Read all of Janet Webb's articles for Criminal Element!


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