|Paul Levine’s “Solomon vs. Lord” series has been compared to the work of Carl Hiassen, Dave Barry and Elmore Leonard due to its South Florida setting and use of humor. But while I admire those three popular authors, I find that Levine’s books are more emotionally satisfying and engaging. While The Deep Blue Alibi is not as fresh as the first, self-titled Solomon vs. Lord, it has more depth and poignancy, making it equally enjoyable.
When we last saw trial attorneys Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord, they had realized that they made a great team, both legally and romantically. Victoria believes in following the rules, researching her precedents and carefully building her arguments. Steve believes rules are made to be bent, if not broken, and he relies on drama, luck and last-minute inspiration when he’s in front of a jury. Victoria wears Manolo Blahniks and Steve favors t-shirts emblazoned with crude sayings. Somehow these two utterly disparate individuals fell in love… yet at the start of ,b>The Deep Blue Alibi, Victoria is already having second thoughts about their professional and personal relationship. When her father’s former business partner is accused of murder, Victoria tries to claim the case for herself, but the overbearing Solomon worms his way into “Uncle” Hal Griffin’s heart and convinces the businessman to hire them both to defend him.
Solomon has plenty of incentive to maintain his involvement with this case. Representing a prominent, wealthy and somewhat notorious man like Griffin can help put the fledgling Solomon & Lord law firm on the map. But his motivation goes deeper than career advancement. Griffin’s son, Junior, is tanned, buff and oozing with testosterone. Many years ago he was Victoria’s first boyfriend, and Steve is afraid he’d like to pick up where they left off. To his dismay, Victoria does not seem immune to Junior’s charm. Can Steve salvage his love life while also, in his spare time, clearing his father’s name 20 years after he was disbarred? Can Victoria successfully defend her Uncle Griffin while also uncovering truths about her late father? And will the differences between Solomon and Lord mean a can’t-miss team or a combustible disaster?
Deep Blue Alibi rewards on many levels. First of all, it’s flat-out funny. Paul Levine knows how to use numerous forms of humor, including one-liners, puns, and lawyer jokes. He’s adept at setting up a scene for maximum comic impact and writing punchy, witty dialogue. You will chuckle, guffaw, wince and groan. A few of the jokes miss their mark, but they fly fast and furious enough to ensure your entertainment.
But the story would be paper-thin if there weren’t more to it than a few yuks. Solomon and Victoria are memorable characters. Solomon is surprisingly vulnerable and good-hearted beneath his obnoxious exterior and Victoria, although not as flashy, is more than just a pretty face. They’re surrounded by colorful secondary characters, most notably Solomon’s unique nephew Bobby; his disgraced but still outspoken father Herbert; and my personal favorite, the pot-smoking Sheriff Willis Rask, who “forgets to load his gun but knows all the words to Margaritaville.” Even though the story doesn’t take itself too seriously, there are moments of genuine emotion. Both Solomon and Victoria find themselves exploring secrets that their parents withheld from them for years. The surprising answers they find lead them to question long-held assumptions about themselves and their behavior in relationships.
Sadly, Deep Blue Alibi contains fewer courtroom scenes than the original Solomon vs. Lord. Instead, our heroes act like private detectives, trying to solve the mystery of who killed the murder victim so they can get Griffin off the hook. While this direction increases the book’s suspense quotient, it leaves it without one of Solomon vs. Lord’s major charms. When these two are in front of a judge and jury, the dialogue sparkles like Hepburn and Tracey in Adam’s Rib.
The third book in this series, Kill All the Lawyers, will be released in Fall 2006. I could definitely get used to a new SVL book every 6 months, although it will quickly become tedious if the mismatched couple’s relationship is put at risk in every novel. Instead, let’s watch them live together and try to parent Bobby together. The series will last a lot longer if Levine moves them forward, instead of leaving them treading the same ground in every book.