Inevitably, given the success of Scott Turow, John Grisham, Patricia Cornwell et al, crime fiction is replete with authors who are also doctors and lawyers (in some cases perhaps no longer practicing those professions). Happily, some of them can write, and a few can write very well indeed. All that insider knowledge can translate into intriguing detail, from crime scene to courtroom, as well as the occasional glimpse into the psychological stresses unique to crime-related professions.
A distinguished example is Robert Sims Reid, a Missoula, Mont., police detective. Reid's sixth novel, WILD ANIMALS (Carroll & Graf: $22; 293 pp.), is a taut, engaging duel between Rozette, Mont., detective Ray Bartell and Henry Skelton, a suspected eco-terrorist. Both are shown to be ultimately moral, fallible men at the mercy of forces beyond their control, fighting a common enemy even as they struggle against each other.
This is a finely drawn story, made all the more pleasing by an ending both surprising and realistic.
Paul Levine practiced law in Miami for 17 years before turning to crime writing. Now the Florida attorney has picked up the pen and we have the benefit of a most entertaining mystery series.
Levine's protagonist is Jake Lassiter, wisecracking former pro football player-turned-attorney. Levine is funny and deft enough to remind mystery readers of Jonathan Gash and Kinky Friedman, and Lassiter's latest romp, FOOL ME TWICE (William Morrow: $22; 374 pp.), will not disappoint. Lassiter finds himself charged with murder as he pursues a missing client and a femme fatale from Miami to Aspen. The plotting is workmanlike and the dialogue, delicious.