Lassiter by Paul Levine
Read by Peter Berkrot
Length: 8 Hrs 41 MIns
Genre: Legal Thriller
Quick Thoughts: Fans of legal thrillers as well as quirky Florida mysteries should definitely give Lassiter a chance, whether or not they have read the previous editions of the series.
My first experience with Paul Levine and his ex-football player lawyer Jake Lassiter was back in 1996 with Naked Came the Manatee, a collaborative novel written by some of Florida’s greatest thriller writers. I have always enjoyed the strange subgenre that is Florida based thrillers, and being a fan of Carl Hiaasen and James W. Hall I couldn’t help but snatch that book up. Yet, despite my love of legal thrillers, for some reason which I really can’t figure out, I never went back and read the Jake Lassiter series. It wasn’t until nearly 10 years later that I discovered Levine’s quirky courtroom thriller series, Solomon vs. Lord that I became a true fan of Levine’s work. This series combined two things I love, Florida mayhem with courtroom shenanigans. Yet, this was also around the time that I began to do most of my "reading" with audiobooks. Sadly, the Jake Lassiter series isn’t well represented in audiobook form, so I still neglected it. Yet, when I discovered that Paul Levine was, after a 14 year long break, going to bring back Jake Lassiter, and it would be available as an audiobook, I was both excited and a bit worried. I was excited to be able to experience Levine’s witty writing style again, yet concerned about jumping into a series at book number 8. Yet, I took the plunge and finally entered Lassiter’s world.
Miami Lawyer Jake Lassiter was intrigued by the attractive women starring daggers into him during his closing arguments of a DUI case. Yet, when he finds out that she is the sister of a missing stripper that Jake had briefly met back during his days as a Dolphin’s Linebacker, he gives into his guilty feelings and decides to help find out what happened to the missing girl. This leads him down a dark path of pornography, corruption, and eventually murder. From the moment I started listening to Lassiter I knew my worries about jumping into the series at book 8 would be unfounded. Levine does a good job reintroducing his main character, and I never felt like I was missing any sort of back story. Lassiter is just the kind of character I always enjoy, quirky and sarcastic and not afraid to occasionally break a rule. Levine did a great job setting up the plot, creating a complex and surprising mystery that kept me guessing to the very end. Yet, it wasn’t just the mystery that brings the surprises, Levine develops his characters in such a clever way that you find yourself questioning many of your initial assumptions. I was also quite happy that this novel didn’t fall into the latest trend in legal fiction where the lawyer is simply a detective with an expensive degree. Lassiter had some strong courtroom scenes which were pivotal to the plot. Fans of legal thrillers as well as quirky Florida mysteries should definitely give Lassiter a chance, whether or not they have read the previous editions of the series.
At the start of the audiobook, I wasn’t sure what I thought of Peter Berkrot as narrator. It took me a little bit to get used to his voice, but when I did I found it actually well fitted to the tale. Peter Berkrot isn’t simply reading the book to you, but instead he brings the characters to life and allows them to tell the tale. Berkrot brings a sense of authenticity to Jake Lassiter, that by the time the book hits its stride, I felt I was listening to Jake tell his narrative. Berkrot also seemed to have a lot of fun with his reading, which provided a lot of interesting characters, from an elderly Mafioso to a Jewish/Cuban prosecutor, as well as the various lowlifes and outcasts that make up the scenery of any good Florida mystery. Berkrot voiced them all perfectly, bringing the right amount of humor. Lassiter is a fun legal thriller, a well plotted mystery and a winning audiobook production, and I for one would love to see the backlist of Lassiter novels brought to life in audiobook form as well.