Reviewed by Jim McCarthy
In its September 1, 2019, issue, VoxFairfax reviewed Clark’s The Substitution Order, the first of a number from this Virginia gentlemen of the bench. The author’s experience as a district court judge clearly informs both his imagination and story telling. Both narratives lay out tales of legal intricacies compounded by fanciful characters, along with some travelogue adventures around the Commonwealth and, occasionally, elsewhere.
Most law schools in the first year require students to engage in an academic exercise called Moot Court wherein, often, legal conundrums are posed to the newcomers. Equally often these legal scenarios have no legal solution. Clark’s plots present a similar set of legal puzzles to the reader, as though in revenge for the intellectual torture he experienced in his introduction to the law. That is to say, sometimes tracking the story line is not an easy task.
Both works featured protagonists who led normal lives as lawyers until being caught up in the criminal enterprises of others. An additional complexity is presented in Jezebel, when the attorney wife, one half of the legal partnership at the center of the tale, decides she might enjoy an extramarital fling becoming, in her own mind, the morally unrestrained woman of the bible. This jezebel element courses throughout and terminates at the very end, without the remedy suggested by the title.
The married attorneys are in love with one another as the author reminds the reader on a number of occasions. They live on a farm in a rural area with horses and a beloved dog to which much affection is expressed. Brownie, the canine, however, seems more like a prop to reflect the capacity of the couple for feelings.
The novel does contain several instances of legal and investigative drama that promise to entertain but, too often, feel like a trip down the rabbit hole of the writer’s mind. In a number of instances, a sense of improbability threatens credibility. On the other hand, the outlandish behavior of some of the players is enjoyable and cause for amusement.
At the novel’s end, the two lawyers have survived legal crises, including that of the wife’s conscience, and are set to make a great deal of money. It may be the Virginia Way.