I had reviewed Robert Tanenbaum’s latest foray into the world of Butch Karp and Marlene Ciampi, Infamy, this past summer. As is with most of the books in this series, it can stand alone as a legal thriller. But it never hurts to actually go back to the beginning, and get the entire history of our legal duo. In fact, it is quite a lot of fun.
The first book in the Ciampi-Karp series is No Lesser Plea. Here we are introduced to our dynamic duo and their recalcitrant friends at the Manhattan District Attorneys office. You get to know the ins and outs of the office, from the legal wrangling to the political machinations. You get to understand how the system works, or doesn’t work as the case may be. You are exposed to the nitty-gritty, and dirty world in which those who fight for the victims of crime propel themselves through in order to right wrongs, and find that little measure of justice we all so badly want to believe exists out there.
We find Butch, the all-American basketball player sidelined by a knee injury, fighting the good fight for truth, justice and the American way. A true Boy Scout. A transplanted Californian, he weaves himself into a world of 1970s New York. A world, by the way, having lived through, none of us really want to ever revisit. He works hard. He plays hard. He loves hard. Recently separated from his wife, who suddenly figured out she was a lesbian, he throws himself into his work, and earns top prize of the Office, a seat in the homicide division.
Then there is Marlene. A tough cookie from Queens, who takes no prisoners, in her very New York kinda way. A straight shooter, playing with the big boys, in a league that had not made up its mind if women yet belonged. From a tight-knit Italian family, she understands the underbelly of New York, and she knows how to deal with New Yorkers who break the law.
Meanwhile in another part of town, a sociopath, an excon ghetto kid with dreams of being Mr. Big, a poor shnook in over is head in need of some quick cash, enter into a pact that leads to murder, mayhem and abject evil. They leave a trail of blood, death and terror behind them. Murder for murders sake. In a world where life is cheaply held, and sky rocketing crime makes it difficult to prosecute the offenders, our legal eagles refuse to let the bad guys have their day.
The reader is propelled into a bygone era full of obnoxious lovable, albeit at times sexist men, and salty tough fearless women. The early 1970s, the late Vietnam and Civil rights era, was a time of social upheaval and rule breaking. A time when the word quinoa was nowhere near anyone’s lips. A time of hard-drinking, heart killing food, and sexcapades. The time of antiwar protests, revolutionary movements, and bombings that found their way to New York.
Through all these explosions those in the District Attorney’s Office fight for the victims. They fight to keep the streets safe. They know that there are just some people who need to be behind bars, and they do their best to make sure the job gets done. Then, without warning, our prosecutors find themselves enmeshed in a horror of hate, and terror, where their own survival is at stake.
This story takes place before the advent of computers, cell phones and the internet. Back then the police officers, and DAs, relied on a different set of instincts to get the job done. Tanenbaum, a former prosecutor, uses his experience in the DAs office to let us know how cases were solved, and how they were able to bring criminals to justice.
This is a fun, thrilling, enjoyable read. Reminiscent of a time not too long ago, when new social rules were being created, and society wasn’t quite sure where it was headed. An added benefit of the book is the historical references. It’s fun to look back at the not too distant past, and see how society has grown and developed, or not, as we spy on the relationship of our two crusading legal eagles.