Texas lawyer James A. Drexler makes his debut with the legal thriller Criminal Behavior. A diverting tale of a corporate lawyer's own criminal court woes, this first novel makes for a fun weekend read. Watch out, Grisham and Turow; Drexler may not be in your league yet, but he's at work on a second novel. Time will tell if he develops the potential exhibited in his initial showing.
Andy Givens tries lawsuits for a living. A successful civil attorney with a respected Houston law firm, he feels like he's gotten where he always wanted to be in life: great career (partner with the firm), beautiful wife (also a lawyer), nice house. But when a stubborn client decides not to accept a generous settlement offer from the defendant and ends up losing the case, Andy's life takes an abrupt turn off the high and happy road. His client not only yanks his business after the loss; he brings a malpractice suit against Andy's firm. In quick succession, he loses his job, then his wife when her affair is revealed. Most distressing, though, is that his ex-client is brutally murdered inside a tightly secure office, and all the evidence points to Andy.
Despite the case being made against him by the state, Andy is determined to make sure he's got a life left to live if he can prove his innocence. With the help of his faithful secretary and some sympathetic clients, he hangs out his own shingle. His first case: a Sicilian land developer (whose brother is a mobster) wants to sue a collection of banks who yanked their support from a recent development. In the grand old house that he's found to be his office and his apartment, Andy digs into Vincent Caponi's problem. But the defense lawyer in Andy's criminal case is worried that his client isn't spending enough time trying to save his own bacon. In fact, Andy's hot Texan temper might end up sealing a guilty verdict against him.
Criminal Behavior is a strong first outing. Drexler has tapped into the mighty flow of that growing subgenre, novels about lawyers, by lawyers, but for readers who aren't themselves legal eagles. This novel shows he's got a fighting chance to make it there.