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Spotlight on: Trial and Error by Paul Levine

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Trial and Error by Paul Levine Paul Levine, Trial and Error

(Reviewer's note: As this is the fourth entry in a continuing series, I suggest beginning with the first book, Solomon vs. Lord, and reading your way through. I apologize in advance to those who choose to read on and have plot secrets from the first book and its sequel revealed to them.)

Trial and Error is the first novel in the Solomon vs. Lord to actually pit Solomon versus Lord since the first one, aptly titled Solomon vs. Lord. The actual case is based on the technicality that a murder committed during a crime makes the criminal instantly culpable for the victim's death, even if he or she did not actually fire the shot.

This is how Victoria Lord gets her first big professional case. She hopes it will bring in big money to the firm of Solomon & Lord, but her partner ("in law and in love") Steve Solomon sees it differently and offers to defend the fellow.

This really upsets Steve's nephew Bobby, a 12-year-old Asperger's semi-genius who can speak dolphin and work anagrams in his head — because Bobby knows the crime, perpetrated under the banner of Animal Rights, was a phony because the pieces don't fit logically.

Trial and Error is author Paul Levine's fourth romantic comedy/legal thriller in this series in two-and-a-half years, and he's finally showing some signs of wear. This entry is the shortest one yet, but at least its size fits its plot better than Kill All the Lawyers's did; this one is a quick weekend read.

Bobby's anagrams, a highlight of others like The Deep Blue Alibi, are weaker here, but this could be more due to the boy's burgeoning interest in baseball (turns out Bobby has a "live arm") than any lack of imagination on the author's part. A lot of the sexiness of the previous novels is also missing in Trial and Error. Levine seems to have cut the story to the bare bones in order to keep the page count down. And the cover art is the most pedestrian of the series so far.

But there's still a lot to love about Trial and Error. The characters are still the familiar ones from before (though Solomon's and Lord's quirky parents — Herbert T. Solomon is a personal favorite — barely make a token appearance), and Solomon makes a surprising decision that opens the door for further adventures — a decision that is both narratively sound and, at this point, just about necessary to keep things going in the right direction.

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