cover image The Devil to Pay

The Devil to Pay

Gaylord Dold. Thomas Dunne Books, $24.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-312-19257-0

As the trap closes around once-privileged, now-dissolute lawyer Jack Darwin in Dold's fourth nail-biter (Schedule Two), it's clear that he's become the prey of his supposed confidant. Accused of rape and murder, the hapless Darwin turns to his colleague, the criminal lawyer David Avila, to argue on his behalf. Little does he suspect that Avila is already sleeping with Darwin's cold and calculating wife, Karla, and has visions of Darwin's Bay view apartment dancing through his head. Avila's survival-of-the-fittest reveries--which rely a bit embarrassingly on the Charles Darwin pun--intensify the creepiness of his duplicity. He fancies himself ""Homo sapiens"" in an uneven contest with ""Homo erectus,"" ""as if he'd just hopped down from an acacia in East Africa and was about to pounce."" Avila's courtroom ""mistakes"" get Jack convicted of Avila's crimes. Lucky for Jack, softhearted second thoughts by police and DA staff foil Avila's plans. But this unlikely turn of fate, sadly, dispels the tension Dold has worked so painstakingly to create. The bloody end in misty San Francisco testifies to Dold's skills as a perfect scene-setter and villain's portraitist--evolutionary advantages that any writer of suspense would kill to have. (Feb.)