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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

No Lesser Plea by Robert K. Tanenbaum

A legal thriller that gets lost in its own antics

Robert K. Tanenbaum has created a well-regarded series of legal thrillers set in New York City and featuring D.A. Roger 'Butch' Karp. I have read others in this series. No Lesser Plea is the first and is set from 1970-1973.

The main legal focus of the book and the source of the title is the case of Mandeville Louis, a user of men and women who masterminds a murderous liquor store heist and causes his get away driver to die from an overdose. Louis has a plan to avoid punishment by faking to be mentally ill and eventually plea bargain his way to freedom based on time served in a mental institution rather than a harsher penal institution (shades of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest).

Butch Karp sniffs out the true legal motives of Louis and writes in magic marker on the case file 'No Lesser Plea' just in case it comes up for review again and he is not informed.

The legal story is quite good but Tannenbaum's story bogs down in the antics of the District Attorney's office (it reminds me of the movie M*A*S*H but without the excuse of an insane war to push the characters to the edge of sanity). Butch's friend Guma is insufferable (he drags pistols out of the evidence room to play cops and robbers and then promptly loses some of them, he sets of a C-4 charge in a reflection pool during an office garden party, has sex on his office desk and so on) and the whole office politics scene is too hurried. If Tannenbaum had paced himself a bit these antics would have been more tolerable. As they are presented, they distract from the legal thriller at hand.

I rate this book 3 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: No Lesser Plea.

Reviewed on March 27, 2006.

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