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IN BRIEF

Fiction

March 07, 1993|KAREN STABINER

ALIVE AND KICKING by Michael Levin (Simon & Schuster: $21; 351 pp.). Let's kill all the lawyers, maybe, but not all the law students. In a remarkable fiscal about-face, given the gimme mentality of the 1980s, Michael Levin went to Columbia Law School and then decided to be a writer instead of a lawyer (clearly, he'd been too busy to read the statistics about relative income). In this third novel he has followed the classic advice, Write About What You Know, and come up with the irresistibly funny story of Harry Gaines' $60 million, the relatives who are after it and the two law firms--affectionately called Old Shap and New Shap, and also related to each other--that represent them. The plot is basically a humanistic twist on the film "Brewster's Millions," about an heir who has to spend a large sum to inherit a huge sum by a specific deadline; in Levin's universe, the warring Gaineses have to learn to get along if they're to get a chunk of the pie. Overseeing it all is our heroine, Amelia, who is, of course, not exactly what she seems. It's a fairly predictable story, but what saves it is Levin's casual charm as a writer. His characters are quirky without ever descending into caricature; it's hard not to get caught up in the frenzy.

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