About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Trial & Error by Paul Levine

Trial & Error by Paul Levine – The fourth Solomon and Lord book opens with another dramatic flourish. Masked intruders make a late night entry into Cetacean Park seeking to capture two highly trained dolphins, Misty and Spunky. Bobby Solomon, 12 year old nephew of Steve Solomon, is at the park visiting with the dolphins. The brilliant boy, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, has been working out dolphin language and can communicate with them.  Steve, searching for Bobby, arrives just in time to disrupt the escaping invaders. Racing to intercept an intruder on a jet ski he launches himself into the channel and knocks a wet suit clad Gerald Nash from the jet ski. While Steve subdues one of the trio the second escapes and the third is killed by Park owner, Wade Grimsby.

Bobby is distraught at the dolphins escaping into the ocean and begs Steve to get them back. In classic Solomon wit Steve muses:

            "How, I don’t know. A writ of habeas porpoise, maybe."

(Trial & Error is now listed as Habeas Porpoise on Levine’s website.)

Always one to take the opportunity for a new client Steve Solomon advises Nash he would be interested in representing him.

Nash is facing a murder charge for while Grisby, rather than Nash, shot Nash’s partner in crime it is felony murder because Nash’s participation in the crime, breaking in and theft, brought about the shooting.

The next morning at the courthouse, Victoria Lord, is taken aside by the State Attorney, Ray Pincher. A special prosecutor is needed as Nash is his nephew. Pincher convinces Victoria to become the Special Assistant State Attorney.

When Steve and Victoria realize they are opposing counsel on the murder charge against Nash they each insist the other should resign from the case. Being trial lawyers both of them are too stubborn to withdraw.

Victoria brings an application to have Steve removed from the case. He is a potential witness and they are living together. She brings ample authority to the hearing of the motion. Steve brings his quick mind. (In Steve winging it in court I was reminded of early Calgary lawyer, Paddy Nolan, who equally relied on his lightning mind reflexes rather than dedicated legal research.) In a funny and clever exchange with toy train loving Judge Erwin Gridley, who is also a devout University of Florida Gator fan Steve convinces the judge they will both vigorously contest the case in the same way that opposing college football coaches who are father and son or brothers work just as hard to beat the family member across the field as they would to battle strangers.

Bobby is becoming an increasingly interesting and complex character. Though lacking any discernible athletic skills Steve has signed Bobby up to play on a Jewish baseball team. Bobby goes along with Steve, who loved baseball while being best remembered for being picked off third in a crucial game when he was playing for the University of Miami Hurricanes.

Most of the book is consumed by the trial. I was glad to see Solomon and Lord facing off again in the courtroom. In their last book, Kill All the Lawyers, the plot barely involved court.

For all his cleverness Steve is discouraged. Victoria has carefully assembled the State’s evidence and it is clear and overwhelming.  She is giving him any opening.

After she has skilfully presented her case in her opening statement Steve uncharacteristically decides not to immediately respond:

The strategy – or lack of strategy – violated yet another one of his rules, based on the psychological concept of “primacy”. People are more receptive to information at the beginning of an even than in the middle or at the end. Sure, some lawyers believe in “recency,” that people remember best what they hear last. But Steve always told Victoria to get off to a quick start.

Steve is struck by the case against his client being so air tight. He reflects on one of Solomon’s laws:

6. When the testimony is too damn good, when there are no contradictions and all the potholes are filled with smooth asphalt, chances are the witness is lying.

In discussion with Bobby he realizes the attack on the park was not an act of eco-terrorism to free the dolphins. You will need to read the book find out the real reason behind the attack.

The book is a rollicking ride through the Florida court system. Steve is the lawyer that the average trial lawyer dreams of being with his irreverent bravura saying whatever he wants to judges, clients and opposing lawyers. Victoria is the lawyer most litigators are in real life. She is conservative, well prepared, careful in every statement. I hope there are more to come in the series though it has been 7 years since there was a book.
Levine, Paul – (2006) - Solomon v. Lord; (2009) - The Deep Blue Alibi; (2011) - Kill All the Lawyers; (2102) - "L" is for Paul Levine; (2014) - Trial & Error


  1. Bill - Oh, I couldn't stop laughing at writ of habeas porpoise! That's priceless! I'm so glad this one lived up to your expectations. And who knows? Philip Kerr waited 15 years between the Berlin Noir trilogy and the next Bernie Gunther novel. Hopefully Levine won't wait quite that long..

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. It is a great phrase. I am not surprised they have used it as title for subsequent editions. It is a great example of an author tweaking a familiar phrase that we wish we all could have made.

  2. Bill, this sounds like a good entertaining novel. It was interesting to read about the temperaments of the two trial lawyers and the possible conflict of interest for one of them.

    1. Prashant: Thanks for the comment. Steve Solomon does not know the meaning of conflict of interest as he flies through life.

  3. Bill, I have not tried this author but I really should. I need to read more legal mysteries, and the Florida setting sounds good.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. It is a fun series to read.

  4. I've read the first in this series which was enjoyable. Hope to try more from the author at some point.

    1. Col: Thanks for commenting. You have good reading ahead of you in the series.

  5. You do a great job of making this sound like an interesting and witty read. The porpoise joke is very memorable..... I shall put the book on my list.

  6. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I have only touched upon the wit in the book. You will get some amazing clothes descriptions especially for the joint appearance of Steve and Victoria before Judge Gridley on the removal application.