Reviewed by Ian Lipke
Steve Cavanagh’s The Accomplice is a smorgasbord of crime fiction in which leading characters are killed primarily for effect and in which the reader can be taught the intricacies of conducting a criminal trial. There is little laying out of preliminary events.
The author introduces his story with an American female soldier who appears to occupy a leading role in the story. She is almost immediately murdered. Her introduction allows the author to show what a serious threat the killer is, how devoted he is to his craft, and how severe a threat he poses to ordinary folk. We know he warrants no mercy in our considerations. The killer’s cruel method of treating his victim appears in the opening pages. All of this information is transmitted in a short chapter.
The author clearly has an interest in the American criminal justice system. Whether or not his portrayal is accurate would need to be debated. I suspect that he has taken some liberties with the trial of Carrie Miller (the Sandman’s wife) – that she was married to a notorious killer and did not know it makes her either the most naïve or the most stupid woman on the planet. The author will have realised that her character must needs be a hard sell since he included the most unconvincing ending to the book. Having portrayed Eddie Flynn as the hottest defence attorney in the State, he finishes the book with a section that shows how easily the gifted lawyer can be fooled. I don’t buy it.
It needs to be kept in mind that the purpose in writing this book was not to supply a perfect image of an American trial system. That the lawyer can manipulate the trial judge (especially when they are at odds with each other) and score off the District Attorney so frequently that one doubts the capacity of this individual to do his job are perfectly acceptable within the confines of a popular novel. My last journey through the streets of Los Angeles was nothing like the trip carried out by the lawyer’s mate in his ‘souped-up vehicle’, and that makes me envious. In all seriousness, episodes like this one add to the glamour of the story, add interest to the raw facts, and allow the development in character that might not be possible in some alternative medium.
The inclusion of ‘wacky’ anecdotal material and the combination with the court scenes, together with g-men in action, allow the author to broaden his appeal. His audience is no longer confined to readers of crime-procedural or action stories but rather to a spectrum that covers all shades of these genres. This is a fine example of maximising the potential of an audience.
One aspect of this form of writing that is minimised or completely overlooked is the expected romance or love affair between two of the major characters. It’s almost as though a conspiracy requires that writers of action novels endeavour never to reveal their softer sides. A woman’s physical attractions, the exciting role of sex – neither has any part in these tough boy tales. It would be so simple, the work of a moment, to include such material.
Be that as it may, a book that draws the Sandman out of hiding to protect his wife from prosecution for his crimes, sounds like something with reader value. And so it turns out. The basic footprint allows the writer to open his mind to include genre of several kinds. The result is a firm success.
By Steve Cavanagh
$32.99; 352 pp