My high hopes were dashed early on this one. It was billed as a legal thriller, but it was neither thrilling nor did it have anything much to do with a legal case. Still, it wasn’t bad so much as disappointing. The author can write grammatically and fluidly, which puts him ahead of two-thirds of what’s out there. The main character, Stone Barrington, is supposedly a lawyer, but all he ever seems to do is eat at expensive restaurants, talk to the president of the U.S., and sleep with women. What little legal advice he dispenses is horribly bad and inaccurate. For example, his first client comes in with millions in money stolen decades earlier but only now surfacing because the thief (now dead) gave his prison buddy (the client) the location. Barrington tells him that the money is now “legal” since the statute of limitations has run. Totally wrong. First of all, the statute of limitations does not change stolen goods into non-stolen goods; it only affects whether someone can be prosecuted for the theft. The money is still stolen property and can be seized by police and returned to its owner. Secondly, since it’s still stolen property, possessing it is a new crime for which the current possessor can be prosecuted, or possibly even for being an accessory after the fact, both crimes that occur in the present day. Not only that but the original statute of limitations may have been tolled for any of several reasons. Yes, I’m a lawyer and former law enforcement, so garbage like this in a novel gets me. If you’re into legal fantasy and it doesn’t bother you that the whole plot could never be close to true, then never mind my complaints. Legal thrillers should only be written by lawyers, in my opinion, and even then, only by ones who know the field. Even Grisham gets the criminal law stuff completely wrong, although he gets the tort stuff right. Apparently that’s his practice area. Unfortunately, though, being a lawyer does not mean you can write well for the general audience. Scott Turow is the only lawyer/author I know of who can write exciting novels and get the law right.
Once I saw the author fail to get that right I knew the plot was hopeless. The real villain in this one is so obvious it was ridiculous. The way the final crime against Barrington was carried out was ridiculous. The criminals did just about every possible thing they could to get caught, if you could call that ending getting caught. The best part of the book was the thread involving his client, who turned out to be a likeable fellow (the eponymous “standup guy”). That sideline was amusing. The whole thing is fluff, mostly inoffensive (although it did get crude toward the end), but not something I could recommend.