Saturday, July 23, 2011

'Follow the Money': Fast-Paced Legal Thrills and a Moral

Review: FOLLOW THE MONEY (Fingers Murphy 2011)
Author: Fingers Murphy

This is the story of Oliver (Ollie) Olson, a law student who's finished his second year of school. Now, allow me to translate the complete meaning of this sentence for anyone who hasn't had the pleasure of attending law school. Ollie knows the law school drill now and can probably brief case opinions in his sleep. However, when it comes to dealing with the real world aspects of dealing with actual clients with genuine problems, Ollie's a nice guy, but about as clueless as they come.

This may be especially true given that Ollie comes from a working class background and he's participating as a summer associate, aka, intern, at Kohlberg & Crowley, a big deal international law firm in Los Angeles, where he fits in like a guppy in a shark tank.

However, Ollie isn't threatened by anyone at the firm. He's assigned to a case, in which the firm is trying to get a former U.S. senator James Steele released from prison, where they claim he's being wrongly held. Why? Because they say he was wrongfully convicted of killing his wife, Sharon, due to ineffective assistance of counsel. And his lawyer at the time was one of the greatest criminal defense attorneys around -- Garrett Andersen.

And when Ollie meets Steele in prison, he seems like a guy who really got screwed the hell over. So Ollie really wants to bust his ass for him and see that justice is done. Even though he sees his job as doing research to find support for "a legal technicality." But the law is the law. And lawyers uphold the law, don't they? Right!

Oh, and did I mention that the firm is paying Ollie three grand a week to do this? THREE GRAND? Every freaking week? And he's NOT. EVEN. A LAWYER!

The worst part is, I didn't have to suspend my disbelief about this part at all. :)

Anyhow, so Ollie starts investigating doing research. I don't want talk too much about what he finds, because it'll spoil the whole thing for you.

Just know this: Ollie has a girlfriend, Liz. She works for Legal Aid and serves as a kind of reminder of the real reason he decided to be a lawyer ... at least, maybe. If he thought about it. The question is, will he? You see there's also this other girl (another summer associate who goes to Yale or some muckety-muck school) named Morgan. Clearly, she's no good. She's a metaphor, if there ever was one. And it's a metaphor of something awful.

The dialogue is spot on and very funny. Including the internal dialogue. There was more than one priceless moment that made me laugh out loud. Including this one: [After someone tells Ollie about a conversation that couldn't be admitted as evidence.] "I thought about that for a second. Was it hearsay? Steele couldn't repeat the contents of the conversation between Becky and Matt's sister because it took place out of court? I didn't remember the rules of evidence. Why was I so stupid?"

This is so, so typical. :) Everyone thinks lawyers have all the rules memorized or something. We don't. We look them up. What? You think we all have photographic memories? lol According to Professor Kingsfield, they're useless, but I digress ... anyhow ...

The plot takes so many twists and turns, you might think you're being taken for a ride along one of those incredibly scenic southern California roads Fingers Murphy describes in the book so very well. Because he does paint an awesome picture of the City of Angels and the surrounding environs.

FOLLOW THE MONEY builds to a fast-paced and suspenseful finish. I spotted a few clues from the get go, but others might not see them, so your mileage may vary.

As for the notion that all the players were smart enough to pull off what was required to make this happen, I must admit I had to suspend my disbelief a bit, because most criminals of a certain type are really stoo-pid. :)

Nonetheless, I would highly recommend this book. I thought it was an impressive debut novel. It's not only well written and entertaining, but shows how easily people can get suckered, when they're not thinking clearly and their judgment is clouded by illusions of comfort.

So, I look forward to reading more books by Fingers Murphy and about Ollie Olson. What the heck were his parents thinking when they named that poor kid, anyway? :)

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