Eddie Flynn is a con man, or he used to be. These days he operates on the right side of the law as a small time New York lawyer skirting the periphery of bankruptcy. So when the FBI turn up at his door offering a case which could solve his money issues Flynn jumps at the chance.
The case initially seems straightforward in that a self-made tech billionaire called David Child has been accused of murdering his girlfriend. The evidence is overwhelming. There’s CCTV, a witness and the murder weapon is discovered in Child’s car. It looks like he’s going down for a long stretch.
Child is being represented by heavyweight law firm Harland and Sinton, the biggest and best in the city. It’s also where Eddie’s estranged wife works. It transpires Harland and Stinton are as dirty as they come, laundering money for the dangerous and deadly. The rub is that David Child carried out some work on behalf of Harland and Sinton and the FBI want him to turn state evidence against the firm. To do so they need to separate client from representative, which is where Flynn comes in if he is to take over the brief.
But Eddie smells that something isn’t right. He does a little digging and soon suspects that Child was set up to make him a pawn in a serious game. Eddie tells the FBI, but they don’t care. All they want is the collar and the case has become personal for the lead agent. However, it’s personal for Eddie too. In the past he allowed an innocent person to go down for a crime they didn’t commit. He won’t allow it to happen again. However, the FBI want their man so badly they threaten Eddie’s wife with jail because she is implicated in the firm’s wrongdoings.
Eddie Flynn, who first appeared in Cavanagh’s surprise hit The Defence last year, begins to walk a tightrope. Keen to ensure that an innocent man doesn’t go to prison, he also needs to keep his wife safe and himself alive. The trouble is, somebody will die in the process.
The jacket blurb describes The Plea as this year’s must-read thriller. Based on what’s between the covers there’s little reason to argue with this statement. This is a well-written and pacy page-turner. The author employs devices such as short chapters and excellent cliff hangers, demanding that we keep going, but really it’s the excellent storyline that is the real winner.
Cavanagh also employs another ploy. In the opening chapter a group of unidentified men break into his office and Flynn is shot by a particular gun. We then go back in time and the rest of the novel leads up to these events with a countdown, which adds extra tension. It’s not made immediately clear which of then is the shooter and the author sprinkles little clues throughout.
The characterisation is excellent, and the players really step off the page, particularly Eddie Flynn. His willingness and ability to play both sides of the law, with the added fillip of being a practiced con man lifts him above the standard character in this genre. And then there’s the place. The author has chosen an American location for the story. Like Lee Child, he does not hail from that side of the Atlantic, but you wouldn’t be able to tell so from the narrative style.
There are shades of early John Grisham in Cavanagh’s writing, and I was particularly reminded of The Firm. This is a thoroughly enjoyable thriller and it would be a surprise if, in a few years’ time, Steve Cavanagh wasn’t a huge name in the industry.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars