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Past Due    by William Lashner order for
Past Due
by William Lashner
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

How many times do you open a book and know from the first page that it's one you're going to enjoy? From that first page to the last? Not many, right? William Lashner's fourth novel is one of those rare books. I opened Past Due, settled in for a good read, and was not disappointed.

Victor Carl is a struggling Philadelphia lawyer with an uncertain future - bankruptcy looms over him and his partner Beth. Into his scruffy office walks an old client with a new beef. When that client turns up with his throat slit, Carl vows to find the murderer. To do that he realizes he must find the solution to a twenty-year-old crime. Lashner cruises the streets of Philadelphia seeking answers. Some of those answers also seek him out and he gets pummeled from time to time. He delves into the bastions of organized crime and into the offices of a Pennsylvania Supreme Court judge. One of his antagonists is a devotee of Willie Shakes (William Shakespeare)!

Carl, while looking for a suitcase around which the twenty-year-old crime revolves, is also watching his father slowly die of a lung condition. He and his father, who never communicated during their lifetimes together, reach an understanding of sorts. And we meet a woman who cooks the best veal in the city. Lashner has the talent to tell a story with serious import and still imbue it with a wonderful, unrelenting wit. I laughed out loud at times. The author's characterizations bring each person to life on the page. Carl's PI Skink is an example of the skill Lashner brings to his work. Not sure I would want to know Skink but would surely want him on my side should I ever be in trouble.

Lashner's sense of place is acute and he takes the reader along the streets and into the homes, offices and lofts of Philadelphia. I could visualize the last scenes in the ruined ocean liner with clarity. William Lashner, I hope you are hard at work on another of your voluminous tomes. I shall be first in line at the sales counter.

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