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, December 17, 2022

At Issue with Th1rt3en by Steve Cavanagh

Authors twist reality for dramatic reasons. I get irritated, even frustrated, when fictional lawyers drift far from the reality of the practice of law and the conduct of trials. Steve Cavanagh in Th1rt3en turned a brilliant premise into a blood filled thriller. As my concerns will involve spoilers, proceed no further if spoilers are a concern.

I start with his lawyer, Eddie Flynn, being asked to be second chair on a huge murder trial a few days before the trial. Movie star, Bobby Solomon, is charged with murdering his wife and security head. The actual killer is a juror. Flynn accepts and then does no other legal work but the case until resolution of the trial.

A lawyer cannot be adequately prepared in less than a week. Reading a file is far different from preparing for a trial. It adds drama to be the last minute addition but not credibility.

I appreciate that George Levy, as set out in Tom & Lucky and George & Cokey Flo by C. Joseph Greaves, took on the lead role in the defence of Lucky Luciano in 1936 on 4 days notice. I thought Levy’s decision was ill advised.

Flynn is portrayed as a busy sole practitioner akin to Mickey Haller, the Lincoln Lawyer, in Michael Connelly books.

Haller, as with any litigator, is constantly juggling cases and court appearances. It is possible Flynn could have a week or longer available without a trial on short notice. What is completely unbelievable is that he would not have many cases requiring attention as well as the new case. There would be phone calls, emails and documents to be addressed. Flynn has nary a demand upon his time beyond the Solomon case.

I think of examples from real life and fiction to illustrate reality. 

Defense Lawyer by James Patterson and Benjamin Wallace is a biography of famed New York City defense lawyer Barry Slotnick. In the book Slotnick deals with multiple clients all the time. 

In a post on the book earlier this year I quoted:

On a mid-winter day in January of 1986 there was an eclectic mix of people in his reception area - a couple of Chinese gangsters, a Russian mobster, two Hasidic men, Bernhard Goetz (the subway vigilante) and John Gotti’s driver (his employer was in a conference at the office.

John Grisham has written several books about lawyers in fictional Ford County in Mississippi. Jake Brigance is the lead lawyer in several books. He is in an eternal struggle to make ends meet in his general practice. He pleads with the trial judge in a Time for Mercy not to appoint him because of the low fees from the state and the time impact on his practice.

Reality disappears when, on the morning of the trial, the lead counsel for Solomon and his team, Rudy Carp, quit the case because the movie studio is his client and has decided he is to no longer to represent Solomon and it will cease paying for Solomon’s representation.

While dramatic I could not see a judge permitting their withdrawal. Carp has to be representing Solomon, not the studio, to be his counsel. The studio can pay but Solomon is the client. If there is a fee issue for the work of the trial Carp will have to sort it out with the studio and Solomon. I would have been shocked if the lawyers did not have a contract with the studio requiring payment for the trial even if the studio was no longer interesting in paying for Solomon. Carp would still have to represent Solomon. Only if there is some major ethical issue could Carp back out. There was no such issue here. The prejudice to Solomon by the late application to withdraw is overwhelming. 

If Carp managed to withdraw I could see Flynn taking over representing Solomon but not going to trial the same day. It would be irresponsible not to get a continuance to allow proper representation of the accused.

I appreciate Solomon’s career is adversely affected by every delay but being convicted because your lawyer is inadequately prepared is worse.

Reinforcing the need for adjournment, Flynn is developing a new defence relating to an unidentified serial killer and identifying other lines of attack upon the prosecution’s case. It would be reckless to go to trial without sorting out the defence. Rescuing Solomon’s reputation will only happen with a not guilty verdict.

There could have been just as much drama in properly preparing the defence with the serial killer still on the jury. 

There was already lots of good courtroom drama in the plot. 

What was subtler was that the case was never as strong as Cavanagh puts forward.  The identification of the accused was suspect. The issues over the security camera amplified the identification problem. The hiding of the murder weapon was clumsy. The theory on how the murders were committed was wrong. Flynn exposes the problems. 

Would reasonable doubt have been created by these problems is less certain because, during the trial, the defence was proposing an unknown killer? Cavanagh did have right the challenge for the defence of providing a credible background for the argument that an unknown killer entered the home to murder. 

Ultimately the body count defies belief. I usually do not go into actual numbers but I have never read legal fiction with this many bodies. I can understand multiple murders committed by Kane before the time period covered by the book. He was a serial killer but he kills 12 people, including Bloom and Tozer, during the time covered in the book. Another 4 people are killed as part of the resolution of the story. 

Flynn is a good action hero and a good lawyer. I wish his legal skills had resolved the plot. A Hollywood movie awaits.


Cavanagh, Steve - (2022) - Th1rt3en


  1. Thanks, Bill, for sharing a little of what life is really like for a trial lawyer. One of your comments that really stayed with me had to do with a lawyer's schedule and time. I can well imagine that lawyers work on several different cases at the same time; they'd have to. Your comment made me think of cop shows and forensic dramas that only focus on one case. It adds to the drama, but it doesn't reflect anything like reality.

    Oh, and about the body count? That in itself would make me think several times before reading the book....

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. As in much of life you can make plans as a lawyer but unexpected needs and urgent situations and troubled people do not appear by schedule. You can concentrate on a case but it will never be exclusive for a week. There were enough bodies in Th1rt3en to form a jury and have 4 alternates. Had I thought of it sooner I would have made that observation part of the post.