Author: Paul Levine
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Paul Levine, author of nineteen novels, once again with his Bum Rap brings us his familiar characters, the brash Miami attorney, Steve Solomon, his beautiful live-in lover and law partner, Victoria Lord and the football linebacker-turned-lawyer. Jake Lassiter.
As the story unfolds, we find Steve in a great deal of hot water when a Bar girl named Nadia Delova comes to his office asking for help in getting her back pay and her passport from her employer, a Russian mobster, Nicolai Gorev. Without making an appointment, Steve accompanies Nadia to Gorev's office and when they meet the goon, Nadia demands her passport and back pay, but also uses some language about federal crimes that immediately makes him suspicious.
Gorev becomes belligerent and threatens Nadia by making reference to a pit six hundred meters deep which turns out to be the Mirny diamond mine in Siberia. As the story progresses we will learn more about the diamonds as well as its connection to a certain jeweller, who turns out to be Gorev's boss. Next, Gorev pulls a gun out of his drawer and orders the two to strip to see if either one of them is wearing a wire for the US government. While Steve is being watched by Gorev, Nadia slips a gun out of her purse, kills Gorev, robs his safe and escapes by a back door leaving Steve inside the room with the murder weapon that was tossed to him by Nadia. In a panic, Steve fires two more shots into the door when Gorev's thugs try to break in. When the police arrive, they find a dead Gorev and Steve with the murder weapon. With no one else around, Steve is the prime suspect and is taken in by the police. Victoria hires Jake Lassiter to defend Steve of the murder charge. Jake describes himself as a grinder who hates losing and believes in busting his hump as well as breaking down doors to win. Victoria believes in Jake because of his street smarts and furthermore will not fall for any of Steve's nonsense, who by the way is not pleased that his partner hired Jake.
With Bum Rap Levine has concocted more than a courtroom thriller. His principal character, Lassiter turns out to be an easy to root for strong well-drawn character fiercely loyal to Steve and Victoria. And what seemingly begins as a Bar girl scam where naive customers are fed booze by pretty girls with possible sex and where an attorney is accused of murder, develops into a diamond smuggling scheme involving the Russian Mafia and the US Government that wants to shut down the operation. And to add a little spice, Levine also sprinkles in some playful humor particularly in the banter and exchange of ideas between Lassiter, Victoria and Steve. For those who enjoy constructing a jigsaw puzzle out of some tantalizing clues, this novel will serve you well, although at times I will admit the story dragged.