Le­gal thriller ‘Thir­teen’ puts a se­rial killer on the jury

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Spotlight - BY OLINE H. COGDILL

The tag line to Steve Cavanagh’s fourth novel about for­mer con man turned de­fense lawyer Ed­die Flynn is, on its own, tan­ta­liz­ing: “The se­rial killer isn’t on trial he’s on the jury.”

But Cavanagh’s “Thir­teen” is no gim­mick. It’s a su­perb ac­tion-packed story that melds the le­gal thriller with the se­rial killer sub­genre, fea­tur­ing in­trigu­ing char­ac­ter stud­ies and a per­cep­tive look at the le­gal sys­tem.

Ed­die sees a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween his old life as a con man and his ca­reer as a lawyer, es­pe­cially in deal­ing with ju­ries. But the main dif­fer­ence is that Ed­die is now scrupu­lously hon­est, will­ing to take on any­one, in­clud­ing cor­rupt cops. As a re­sult, his prac­tice is low-rent. His apart­ment is his of­fice, and he ad­ver­tises on the side of a hot-dog cart. He’s stunned when high-pow­ered at­tor­ney Rudy Carp wants him to join the team de­fend­ing up-and­com­ing ac­tor Bobby Solomon, who’s ac­cused of killing his wife, the pop­u­lar ac­tress Ariella Bloom, and Carl Tozer, the cou­ple’s chief of se­cu­rity. The vic­tims were found mur­dered in the ac­tors’ Man­hat­tan home.

Although the ev­i­dence sug­gests Bobby killed them in a jeal­ous rage, Ed­die be­lieves his client may be in­no­cent, while also rec­og­niz­ing that the young man is a gifted ac­tor. But a bril­liant de­fense may not be enough to get an ac­quit­tal. Joshua Kane, a se­rial killer, has tar­geted the trial and goes about dis­patch­ing wouldbe jurors un­til he gets to be an al­ter­nate – num­ber 13 – though that doesn’t last long. Once ac­tu­ally on the jury, he will make sure to get a guilty verdict – by any means.

Ir­ish au­thor Cavanagh nails the New York vibe while il­lus­trat­ing an affin­ity for Amer­i­can legalese. Cavanagh delves deep to show how Kane ma­nip­u­lates the jury and how he has stayed un­der the radar of law en­force­ment for years. The num­ber 13 be­comes a chill­ing totem as Ed­die be­gins to put to­gether ev­i­dence and clues. “Thir­teen” seam­lessly al­ter­nates view­points of Ed­die and Kane. Cavanagh shows how the highly in­tel­li­gent Kane be­came a killer, yet the au­thor never wants the reader to feel sym­pa­thy for him. Kane’s self-as­sured­ness makes him for­get the rule of never con­ning a con man.

Sharp di­a­logue, court scenes that crackle and well-de­vised red her­rings make “Thir­teen” an out­stand­ing thriller.


Thir­teen By Steve Cavanagh, Flat­iron Books, 336 pages, $26.99

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