Reviewed by Jim McCarthy
The author is a retired circuit court judge having served 27 years on the bench in Virginia. The Substitution Order, the latest of four works, was recently reviewed in The New York Times Book Review, catching this reader’s attention. As might be expected, the setting is the Commonwealth and legal matters and intrigue propel the story line.
The tale concerns the personal and professional foibles of a once outstanding attorney compromised by cocaine, a torn carotid, and, as a topper, by some ingenious fraudsters. Kevin Moore, the protagonist, is fortunate to have made some influential and wealthy friends along with a few allies in the legal establishment to assist him in avoiding very threatening results, including an extended jail sentence.
Along the way, Counsellor Moore is divorced from his wife, a woman whom he deeply loves. He does find another woman to whom he is attracted, but that relationship simply fails to be fruitful. His best, true friends support–in some instances collude with–the beleaguered attorney in his plot to avoid the most serious legal and financial penalties he faces. At times, these relationships feel naggingly tenuous and often stillborn. On the other hand, they are necessary to provide explanations and devices for Moore to execute his defense and his plan of redemption.
Moore’s tactics and strategies to avoid catastrophic consequences reflect, in part, his legal acumen but tend to be occluded by the author’s determination not to reveal their effects until very late in the novel. Then, lay readers may find that the legal machinations in which the hero engages require re-reading to appreciate their complexity, intricacy, and success.
On whole, this work might be characterized as a “summer read” which, for this reviewer, worked. VoxFairfax will review other Clark novels in future issues. Stay tuned.