To call Steve Cavanagh’s Eddie Flynn thrillers “courtroom dramas” is to sell them well short. Sure there are some courtroom or other legal shenanigans in every one of Eddie’s outings. But what Cavanagh seems to delight in is how much pressure he can bring to bear on Eddie outside of the case itself. In his debut (The Defence) Eddie conducted proceedings while strapped into an explosive vest, in Thirteen the killer was on the jury. So the question going into Eddie’s sixth appearance is how complicated and seemingly impossible can Cavanagh make a case for him. The answer, in The Devil’s Advocate, is plenty.
The Devil’s Advocate starts with a death row execution watched with some degree of satisfaction by District Attorney Randal Korn. It is quickly established that Korn enjoys watching the deaths of those he has sent to the electric chair and when a young woman is killed he is quick to arrest, frame and charge his next victim – a young black man called Andy Dubois. Enter Eddie Flynn and his gang (mentor Harry, fellow lawyer Kate and investigator Bloch), brought in by spook Alexander Berlin who is feeling some remorse at having helped Korn get elected, to defend Andy. The team quickly realise that Dubois has been framed. But the deck is seriously stacked against them – from the evil DA, to corrupt police, to a generally hostile local Southern community thirsty for revenge. And underlying all of this, behind the scenes a white-supremacist conspiracy is planning something which the team have no inkling of. Eddie and his team will have to use every trick in their arsenal (including Eddie getting himself thrown into jail a couple of times) and even then it does not look like it will be enough to save Andy.
The Eddie Flynn series started with a bang and has never wavered. Each book throws a new range of seemingly impossible challenges at Eddie that he manages to solve through a mix of guile, legal nous and his skills as a former conman. But Eddie is no longer a lone ranger, Cavanagh deploys the whole team, developed over the last few books, well, giving all of them point of view chapters in which to shine. The Devil’s Advocate, though, brings in a new dimension to these thrillers – basing itself on the very real issues of the use of the death penalty and the resurgence of white supremacy in the United States. So that while the characters, particularly the ‘bad guys’ are a little black and white, the underlying concerns are very real.
The Devils’ Advocate is another winning thriller for Eddie and Cavanagh. It not only provides the thrills, cliffhangers and reverses that readers of the series have come to expect but will also leave readers, particularly American readers, with something to think about.