Kill All The Lawyers
There’s a killer on the loose and a legal disaster looming for the world’s oddest legal couple in Kill All The Lawyers.
The strange happenings start when beach bum lawyer Steve Solomon finds a 300-pound marlin stuck in his front door. Even by South Florida standards, this registers as weird – so who’s behind such a bizarre threat?
It’s not long before Steve figures out who’s responsible, but how can he explain to his straight-laced partner why his ex-client wants him dead? To make matters worse, he’s being bashed on local radio and a celebrity shrink is mysteriously trying to be his new best friend. It’s no wonder that his relationship is on the brink of catastrophe.
Could This Be the End of Solomon and Lord?
Is Steve’s lover and law partner about to walk out on him? Perhaps the only thing keeping the two from killing each other is that they’re on the same side.
You’ll soon realize why this action-packed legal thriller was nominated for the International Thriller Writers Award. Here’s what others have said about Kill All The Lawyers:
Read an Excerpt
Wearing boxers and nothing else, eyes still crusty with sleep, Steve Solomon smacked the front door with his shoulder. Stuck. Another smack, another shove, and the door creaked open. Which is when Steve noticed the three-hundred pound fish, its razored bill jammed through the peephole. A blue marlin. Dangling there, as if frozen in mid-leap.
He had seen alligators slithering out of neighborhood canals. He had heard wild parrots squawking in a nearby park. He had stepped on palmetto bugs the size of roller skates. But even in the zoo that was Miami, this qualified as weird.
Steve glanced up and down Kumquat Avenue, a leafy street a mile from the brackish water of Biscayne Bay. Nada. Not a creature was stirring, not even a crab.
He checked the front of his bungalow, the stucco faded the color of pool algae. No other animals lodged in windows or eaves. No pranksters hiding in the hibiscus hedge.
A squadron of flies buzzed around the marlin's head. The air, usually scented jasmine in the morning dew, took on a distinctively fishy smell. A trickle of sweat ran down Steve's chest, the day already steaming with moist heat. He grabbed the newspaper, sprinkled with red berries from a pepper tree, like blood spatter at a crime scene. Nothing on the front page about a late night tidal wive.
He considered other possibilities. Bobby, of course. His twelve-year-old nephew was a jokester, but where would he have come up with a giant fish? And who would have helped him hoist it into place?
"Would you come out here, please?"
"Yeah" being the oxygen of adolescent lungs.
Steve heard the boy's bare feet padding across the tile. A moment later, wearing a Miami Dolphins jersey that hung to his knees, Bobby appeared at the fish-sticked front door. "Holy shit!"
"Watch your language, kiddo."
The boy removed his black-framed eyeglasses and cleaned the lenses with the tail of his jersey. "I didn't do it, Uncle Steve."
"Never said you did." Steve slapped at his neck, squashing a mosquito and leaving a bloody smear. "Got any ideas?"
"Maybe it's one of those he-sleeps-with-the-fishes deals."
Steve tried to remember if he had offended anyone lately. Not a soul, if you didn't count judges, cops, and creditors. He scratched himself through his boxers, and his nephew did the same through his Jockeys, two males of the species in deep thinking mode.
"You know what's really ironic, kiddo?"
"My shorts." Steve pointed to his Florida Marlins' orange and teal boxers where giant fish leapt from the sea.
"You're confusing irony and coincidence, Uncle Steve," the little wise guy said.
* * *
Twenty minutes later, Victoria Lord showed up, carrying a bag of bagels, a tub of cream cheese, and a quart of orange juice. She kissed Steve on the cheek, tousled Bobby's hair and said: "I suppose you know there's a marlin hanging on the front door."
"I didn't do it," Bobby repeated.
"So what's up?" Victoria asked.
Steve shrugged and grabbed the bagels. "Probably some neighborhood kids."
He had showered, shaved, and put on jeans and a tropical shirt with pictures of surfers on giant waves, his uniform for days with no court appearances. Before Victoria came into his life, he would have moseyed into the office wearing shorts, flip-flops and a tee-shirt reading: "Lawyers Do It in Their Briefs." At the time, Steve's cut-rate law firm had the embellished name of Solomon & Associates. In truth, Steve's only associates were the palmetto bugs that crawled out of the splintered wainscoting.
Now, it was Solomon & Lord. Victoria brought a touch of class along with furniture polish, fresh lilies, and an insistence that Steve follow at least some of the ethical rules.
Today, she wore a silk blouse the color of a ripe peach, stretchy gray slacks, and a short jacket woven with intricate geometrical shapes. Five-foot-eleven in her velvet-toed Italian pumps. Perfect posture. Blond hair, a sculpted jaw, and bright green eyes. An overall package that projected strength and smarts and sexiness.
"You listen to the radio this morning?" Victoria asked.
Steve poured her a thimbleful of café Cubano, syrupy thick. "Sure. Mad Dog Mandich's sports report."
"Dr. Bill's talk show."
"That quack? Why would I listen to him?"
"He was talking about you, partner."
"Don't believe a word he says."
"Why didn't you tell me you were his lawyer?"
Steve took his time spreading cream cheese on a poppyseed bagel. "It was a long time ago." Evading all questions about Dr. William Kreeger. Pop psychiatrist. Mini-celebrity. And now, ex-con. "What'd he say?"
"He called you Steve-the-Shyster Solomon."
"I'll sue him for slander."
"Said you couldn't win a jaywalking case if the light was green."
"Gonna get punitive damages."
"Claimed you barely graduated from a no-name law school."
"The Key West School of Law has a name; it just doesn't have accreditation."
"He said you botched his trial and he'd sue you for malpractice, except he has no faith in the justice system. Then he ranted about O.J. Simpson and Robert Blake and Michael Jackson."
"I saw O.J. at Dadeland the other day," Bobby said, munching a bagel. "He's really fat."
"So did you screw up Dr. Bill's case?" Victoria asked.
"I did a great job. The jury could have nailed him for murder but came back with manslaughter."
"Then why's he mad at you?"
"Aw, you know clients."
"I know mine are usually happy. What happened between you and Dr. Bill?"
If he told her, Steve knew, she'd go ballistic. "You did what? That's unethical. Illegal. Immoral."
"Nothing happened. He did time so he blames me."
"Uh-huh." She sipped at the Cuban coffee. "Bobby, you know how I can tell when your uncle's lying?"
"His lips are moving," the boy answered.
"He speaks very quietly and puts on this really sincere look."
"I'm telling the truth," Steve said. "I don't know why the bastard's mad at me."
Technically, that was true. Steve knew exactly what he did wrong in Kreeger's case. He just didn't know what Kreeger knew. On appeal, the guy never claimed ineffective counsel. He never sued for malpractice or filed disbarment proceedings. He went off and served six years, worked in the prison mental health facility, and got early release.
Before he was indicted for murder, Kreeger had a clinical psychiatry practice in Coral Gables and had achieved notoriety with a self-help book, "But Enough About You." He peddled a simplistic "me first" philosophy, and after a puff piece on GOOD MORNING AMERICA, he landed his own syndicated TV show where he dispensed feel good one-liners along with relationship advice. Women adored the guy, and his ratings shot into Oprah territory. "You ever see Kreeger on TV?" Steve asked.
"Caught his show when I was in college. I loved the advice he'd give those women. 'Drop the jerk! Drop-kick him out of your life right now.'"
"Ever notice his eyes?"
"A killer's eyes?" Bobby asked between sips of Cuban coffee, a violation of House Rules. Caffeine wired the boy into a whirling dervish. Catching Steve's look, he put down the cup.
"More like hot eyes," Victoria said. "Dark glowing coals. The camera would come in so close you could almost feel the heat."
"Turned women on," Steve said.
"What about that woman in his hot tub? Did he kill her?"
"Jury said he did, in a manslaughterly kind of way."
"What do you say?"
"I never breach a client's confidence."
Victoria laughed. "Since when?"
"Dr. William Kreeger is out of my life."
"But you're not out of his. What aren't you telling me?
"Wil-liam Kree-ger," Bobby said, drawing out the syllables, his eyes squinting.
Steve knew the boy was working up an anagram from Kreeger's name. Bobby's central nervous system deficit had a flip side. Doctors called it "paradoxical functional facilitation." He had a savant's capacity to memorize reams of data. Plus the ability to work out anagrams in his head.
"William Kreeger," the boy repeated. "I EMERGE, KILL RAW."
"Nicely done," Steve complimented him.
"So you do think he's a murderer," Victoria cross-examined.
"The jury's spoken. So has the judge and the appellate court. I respect all of them."
"Don't you have to get to court, Vic?"
"I've got lots of time."
"But I don't. Bobby, let's go to school."
"I'd rather watch you two fight," the boy said.
"We're not fighting," Steve said.
"Yet." Victoria studied him, her eyes shiny green laser beams. "Dr. Bill challenged you to come on the air and defend yourself."
"I thought you'd leap at free publicity."
"Not on some second-rate radio program."
"Aren't you the guy who bought ads on the back of ambulances?"
"Ancient history, Vic," Steve said. "I've decided to become more like you. "Principled and dignified."
"Uncle Steve's speaking softly again," Bobby said, "and trying to look sincere."
* * *
Thirty minutes later, Steve was headed across the MacArthur Causeway toward Miami Beach. He had kissed Victoria good-bye and dropped off Bobby at Ponce de Leon Middle School. Now, as his old Mustang rolled past the cruise ships lined up at the port, Steve tried to process the morning's information. What was this feeling of dread creeping over him? The last time he'd seen Kreeger was at the sentencing. It had been a messy case with just enough tabloid elements - drugs, sex, celebrity - to attract media attention.
A woman named Nancy Lamm had drowned in three feet of water. Unfortunately for Kreeger, the water was in the hot tub on his pool deck. That wouldn't have been so bad, except for the gash on the woman's skull. Then there was the tox scan revealing a potent mixture of barbiturates and booze. The pills came from Kreeger, which was a big no-no. He was a court-appointed expert in Nancy's child custody case, so he shouldn't have been playing footsie with her in a Jacuzzi. In an unseemly breach of medical ethics, Kreeger and Nancy had become lovers. The state claimed they'd had a spat, and she was going to blow the whistle on him with the state medical board. Armed with proof of motive, the state charged Kreeger with murder.
Steve could still remember his closing argument. He used the trial lawyer's trick of the loaded rhetorical question.
"Is Dr. William Kreeger a stupid man? No, he has a near-genius I.Q. Is he a careless man? No, quite the contrary. He's precise and meticulous. So, ask yourselves. If Dr. Kreeger were inclined to kill someone, would he do it at his own home? Would he be present at the time of death? Would he admit to police that he provided a controlled substance to the victim? I think you know the answers. This was an unfortunate accident, not an act of murder."
The jury returned a compromise verdict: guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Not a bad result, Steve thought, but then he didn't have to serve the time. Now he dredged up everything he could remember about the moment the jury came back with the verdict. Kreeger didn't even wince. Not one of those clients whose knees buckle and eyes brim with tears.
Kreeger didn't blame Steve. Thanked him, in fact, for doing his best. Kreeger hired another lawyer for the appeal, but nothing unusual there. Appellate work was brief writing. Steve was never much for bookwork, and footnotes gave him a headache.
He never heard from Kreeger again. Not a call or postcard from prison. And nothing when he got out.
So what's with all the insults now? Why is he calling me a shyster and challenging me to debate him on the air?
Steve didn't like the answer. Only one thing could have changed.
He found out. Somehow, he found out exactly what I did.
Meaning Kreeger also figured out that he would have been acquitted if any other lawyer on the planet had defended the case. And that marlin in the door? It had to be a message from Kreeger, something they both would understand.
Not a grouper or a shark or a moray eel.
A marlin had significance for both of them.
So what's Kreeger want?
Steve tried the loose thread approach, something his father taught him. "Whenever you're stumped and feeling dumb as a suck-egg mule," Herbert T. Solomon used to drawl, "grab a loose thread and pull the cotton-picking thing till you find where it leads." Now Steve pulled at the idea of Kreeger suddenly attacking him on the radio and jamming a fish into his front door. Where's that thread lead?
Probably not to a lawsuit or disbarment proceedings. No challenge for Kreeger's towering ego to seek redress through official channels. No chance to show his obvious superiority. Steve pulled at the thread some more. It kept leading back to a dead woman in a hot tub.
"The bitch betrayed me."
That's what Kreeger had told Steve, even while denying that he killed Nancy Lamm. Kreeger's hot eyes notwithstanding, there was an icy coldness to the man that could make you shiver. And now the answer emerged with chilling clarity.
The bastard doesn't want to sue me. He wants to kill me.
Reviews For Kill All The Lawyers
"A clever, colorful thriller...with characters drawn with a fine hand, making them feel more like friends than figments of the author’s imagination. Levine ratchets up the tension with each development but never neglects the heart of the story - his characters." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Levine skillfully blends humor, a view of Miami, and the legal system into tidy plots.” – South Florida Sun-Sentinel
"A must-read for lovers of action, good dialogue and sparkling characters. The writing reminds me of Robert B. Parker and Janet Evanovich, with a dash of Anne Tyler thrown in." - Rambles.net
"Another successful fast-moving, highly entertaining mystery. Irreverent to juveniles, judges, and the judicial system, but does it all with a wink. Encore...encore." - ReviewingTheEvidence.com
"A wonderfully entertaining series. The laughs are belly laughs; the suspenseful moments will grab you by the throat. The courtroom scenes are brilliant." - BookLoons.com
"A compelling adventure with well-developed and endearing characters." - Bookpleasures.com
"If, somehow, Perry Mason and Stephanie Plum had a love child, he might be named Steve Solomon."- HuntressReview.com
"Solomon’s Laws delight. A wonderful recurring cast of characters." - Craig’s Book Club