So this summer, on the recommendation of a reader, I read <b>Marked Man</b>, the sixth book about Victor Carl, the unfortunately named Philadelphia lawyer. I wasn't wowed by it, but I enjoyed it enough that I wanted to go back to the beginning and try at least one more in the series.
I'm not convinced that was such a great idea. It wasn't until the last 100 pages that I cared about anything going on in this book -- I even started to really like it, actually. But 80% of the way through a book is far too late for that.
My main problem with the book is the characterization of Victor Carl. He's still at the beginning of his career, but not so fresh that he should be so naïve. For most of the novel, like an obedient show dog, Carl's led around by his greed, ambition, and that part of anatomy not known for its thinking skills. It's hard to watch someone who should be a bit more cynical to act this way. If he was truly wet behind the ears, if he was really that young, if he was Forrest Gump -- it might be different. But a kid who worked his way up from his beginnings through law school and a few years of practice should know better. Even as fresh to the profession as he is, Victor comes across as too world weary to get taken in so easily.
The book is easily one hundred pages longer than it needed to be -- if not more -- but most of the extra time is justifiable, and I only noticed it because I wasn't really enjoying things.
The sense of place is strong. I know next to nothing about Philly. Lashner's writing at least makes me feel I understand it a bit. The way that (early) Parker, Lehane and Tapply helped me think I understand Boston. Or a few dozen authors make me think I understand parts of New York City.
Obviously, over the course of a long series things are going to change in a character -- either because the author changes his mind/forgets something (Inspector Cramer chewing rather than smoking cigars, Spenser's time in the prosecutor's office changing counties) or there's some sort of character growth. So it's not suprising that Victor in book 1 would be differnt in book 6. I don't remember his eyes watering whenever he's in a confrontation from <b>Marked Man</b>, but it's all over the place here. Did he grow outof it? Did Lashner just drop it? Is my memory bad? (I'm leaning towards "no" based on how often he's mentioning it here, he'd have to mention it a lot then).
No matter what, I can't begrudge the time spent with this book because it introduced me to Morris Kapustin -- the elderly, Orthodox Jewish P.I. He's funny, he's easy to underestimate and overlook. Really funny to read. I'd read a Kapustin series in a heartbeat -- I'd probably collect first editions of them. Sadly, something tells me that character won't be around long.
This was good enough to justify the effort, but not so good that I could really recommend. I'm mildly curious about the new phase of Victor's career, and how that gets him to <b>Marked Man</b>, but not overly so. I might be back for #2 if I hit a lull next year, but I'm not going to exert a lot of effort to pick it up.