cover image The Only Good Lawyer

The Only Good Lawyer

Jeremiah F. Healy, J. F. Healy. Atria Books, $53 (308pp) ISBN 978-0-671-00953-3

In the 12th John Francis Cuddy mystery (after 1996's Invasion of Privacy), Healy again pungently conjures the people and geography of working-class Boston while delivering a portrait of the hero as a man of principle and a meticulously detailed description of the work--warts, boredom and all--of being a PI. But the overall impact of this tale is seriously compromised by an unconvincing resolution. Asked by an attorney friend to take on a particularly repellent client, a loutish racist charged with killing his wife's African American divorce lawyer, the reluctant Cuddy finds himself gradually believing that Alan Spaeth is being framed. Searching for other suspects in the fatal roadside shooting of Woodrow Wilson Gant, Cuddy comes up with a debt-ridden brother, a dangerous pair of Amerasian gangsters and various partners in Gant's firm with devious private agendas. Along the way, Cuddy is badly beaten and seriously shot. His involvement in the case brings about a rupture in his love life with a female prosecutor, and he manages to find time for a trademark graveside chat with his late wife. But the plot doesn't do the ambience justice, marking Healy's latest as a rare disappointment. (Mar.)