He runs a $100-a-week tab at the Anchor Bar, keeps in touch with a friend who dealt weed in the Sixties, and sips bourbon from a Styrofoam cup on his drive home to the 'burbs. Now, Judge Nelson Connor of the Third Circuit Court is about to pay for his sins--big time. A fast-talking criminal has found one of His Honor's personal checks in the wrong place. Baiting his trap with a dead body, the con-man is going to shake down the judge. But Nelson Connor, a man on the brink of losing it all, will pull a surprise of his own. He's going to fight back.
The first novel from true-crime writer Cauffiel (Eye of the Beholder, etc.) is a fast and lively journey over some familiar territory, a ride worth taking as long as readers don't expect too much and are willing to settle comfortably into some fairly smart patter and skullduggery. What you get here are declarative sentences laid out on the table like plates of cheese, criminals who are smart enough to get a plot going (but never quite up to the brainpower involved in seeing it through) and a flawed hero with enough inner strength to fight off whatever weirdos the prison system might disgorge into society. Boozing Detroit judge Nelson Connor is the kind of guy who can rationalize making important public decisions while under the influence, but who finally decides to quit when a nasty blackmailer threatens him personally. That blackmailer, Lawrence Gary, fresh out of prison, is an interesting character. The son of an artist, he likes words and photography and pulls some amusingly pretentious gags (e.g., calling himself Dali and chastising Connor for "surreally" stupid behavior). Although we know that Connor, even with his brain blasted by Jim Bean, can take Gary any day, Cauffiel tells a stylish story with just the right amount of hangdog humor.