In the first Eddie Flynn book, The Defence, Steve Cavanagh had his main character trying to win a court case while strapped into a suicide vest and trying to save his daughter. Ever since then, Cavanagh has been successfully upping the ante on Flynn, putting his protagonist through the ringer at the same time. In the previous page-turning Flynn outing, Thirteen, the serial killer was on the jury for the trial of the man he framed for his latest killing. So the question had to be, what could Cavanagh come up with next?
The cold open for Fifty-Fifty finds ex con-man and lawyer Eddie Flynn waiting on a jury verdict. This is the first time he has been unable to read a jury, and when they come back after less than an hour he does not know what to think. Flash back to three months before and two sisters make 911 calls to report the horrific slaying of their father, a former mayor of New York. Either of them could have committed the crime, each is accusing the other. Eddie takes on the case of Sonia, who he believes is the innocent one because Eddie, being Eddie, will only defend the innocent and believes that he can read people.
Meanwhile Kate Brooks is a young lawyer with the big law firm that is representing the other sister, Alexandra. As a young, good looking female lawyer, Kate is the subject of harassment and abuse. And when she snaps, she quits the firm and manages to take Alexandra’s case, her first murder trial, with her. Kate also has a heart of gold and justifies this move as so she too believes that her client is innocent.
And this is where Cavanagh starts to play with the reader’s head. He delivers chapters from the point of view of the killer, which detail both their twisted history and their current plans. The only problem is that the narration could be coming from either sister, and the hints that are dropped could equally apply to either sister. And as the case gets underway, the reader’s sympathies and suspicions are constantly being tested. This is one of the few times that killer point of view chapters, exploitative as they tend to be, have been used effectively to really ramp up the tension.
With this set up it is hard not to keep turning the pages. The court case is full of the usual literary legal shenanigans that probably stray from a real trial but are fun to read. And the revelations, both during the trial and on its periphery are designed to constantly keep the reader off balance. The only off note in Fifty Fifty is a character death which is not particularly well justified and feels a little like fridging. But aside from that this is classic Flynn and the introduction of a few new characters sets this series up for potential, and always welcome, expansion.