Mason Mitchell is a hard-boiled, hard-drinking, tough guy defense attorney operating out of Milwaukee. As the author explains, Mason’s clients were usually guilty men. A fact he was more than okay with as, “it came with the territory and he suffered no pangs of conscience.” When crime is on the rise things are rosy for Mitchell. Suddenly he’s hit with a pair of cases that don’t quite sit right. This time it’s different. Facing a corrupt system and simmering racial tension, things are threatening to boil over. And real justice must now be served.
MOUSE IN THE BOX is the debut novel by Lewis Allan, the pen name for a writing team made up of a veteran criminal defense attorney and a freelance writer. It’s a finely crafted thriller which, though never showy, contains moments of high quality writing that elevate it above standard genre fare. By example, the murder that closes the first chapter is well paced, savage and shocking, yet it is the skillful framing with mundane details which make the incident all the more harrowing. “Robin Key lay in a widening pool of her own blood,” writes Allan, “her left hand resting on the doormat that proclaimed YOU ARE WELCOME. Her heart slowed to a standstill as the porch light ticked away its sixty second countdown and then went dark.” Defending the man accused of this murder becomes the first of two cases that will shake Mitchell’s faith in justice. What transpires is a well plotted, if at times slightly predictable, tale of police corruption and duplicity. For all its fine writing, there is nothing groundbreaking about MOUSE IN THE BOX. Elements of this heavy drinking yet high functioning protagonist borrow from the clichés of numerous hard-boiled heroes. And there is familiarity too with the trope of the tough guy showing his softer side with his much loved pet. No matter, at this stage at least, the Lewis Allan team are not striving to revolutionize the genre. What they deliver is a high quality crime thriller full of well written set-pieces and witty, articulate dialogue.
Part legal procedural, part mystery thriller and an opener for a potential series, the debut appearance by defense attorney Mason Mitchell in Lewis Allan’s MOUSE IN THE BOX is an effective page turner that hits the spot.
~Kent Lane for IndieReader