Monday, January 30, 2012

The Vanilla Lawyer in the Mayhem Blues

By J.P. Hansen

Simon Caldwell, Twin Cities lawyer, meets an old blues musician and his granddaughter in a local bar. After talking, Caldwell decides to litigate on behalf of the musician in order to collect copyright money for the aged singer’s music. Almost immediately after getting advice from friends, trouble begins. He is warned off the case, his briefcase is stolen, and someone takes shots at him. Even after he thinks the case is complete, his residence is ransacked. The suspects are numerous: another lawyer, an aged construction worker, a major record company, a magazine writer, maybe even the granddaughter herself. The motives include racism, drugs…and a strange decades’ old death. For an attorney who just wants to keep under the radar and tend to his probates, Caldwell finds himself struggling to solve the case and to survive.

I like the story. It isn’t just a ‘normal’ case because you know it can’t be so easy. There is something behind the copyright case and you can’t wait to find out what. I wondered something, however. When Caldwell gets involved with the case he takes a leave of absence. This leave seems pretty extensive and I wondered that his firm’s coworkers didn’t balk more of the amount of time off he took.

Simon Caldwell: White, 6’2”, blue eyes, lawyer, has a collection of country blues, divorced, usually handles wills and probate, ‘vanilla’ type law, has an estranged older adopted brother, parents dead, originally wanted to be an English professor

Dot Fuller: Black, interior designer, attractive, divorced. Has a married brother. She’s wary of Caldwell’s motives

Curtis ‘Lionheart Wilson’ Fuller: Dot’s grandfather, old blues musician, has a sleeping disorder, was a grade school janitor

Frank McGhee: 50, single, lawyer, inherited firm from father, big man, six foot tall, wears a trench coat year round, deals in patent and copyright law, democrat, always wants to take Caldwell golfing

Jocelyn: Stripper, Dot’s friend, blonde, has a degree in nursing, speaks Spanish, carries a Glock

These and a few others are pretty well defined characters with appropriate background information. Except for a little philosophizing from Curtis, there is not too much in depth. I would have enjoyed seeing more involvement of a few characters other than just conversations, but maybe Hansen will use them more in the next book. I also wanted to see more emotion from Caldwell since he’s the main character. I wanted to get into his head more, to get a better feel for him.

Lots of conversations, some of which reminded me of television shows where one sentence quickly follows the next. A little bit of information about characters or the case is included with each conversation and it doesn’t drift off topic.

Hansen did his homework regarding blues musicians. He lays out the plot very well, keeping you moving through the story, throwing in enough teasers and tidbits to keep you interested.

First person narrative from Simon’s POV. A few editing errors (misspellings, capitalizations missed, name flubs, etc.) and slightly rough and/or simple sentence structure in places, but nothing egregious. Relatively short chapters. A quick read at only 187 pages in my pdf file, with not too much detail or description. No profanity and even the sex scene is PG13. This story is good, but I wanted more. More detail, more character development, more action, maybe more legal intricacies. Even though I must give it a lower ranking, I want to read more of Hansen’s work because I think Caldwell is a character worth following.

My ranking:

Camouflage Belt

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