Fatal Flaw

Fatal Flaw

4.1 8
by William Lashner

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Some victims deserve nothing less than the truth . . .

Ethically adventurous Philadelphia lawyer Victor Carl usually does the right thing, but often for the wrong reasons. When old law school classmate Guy Forrest is accused of murdering his beautiful lover, Hailey Prouix, in their Main Line love nest, Carl agrees to represent him — while

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Some victims deserve nothing less than the truth . . .

Ethically adventurous Philadelphia lawyer Victor Carl usually does the right thing, but often for the wrong reasons. When old law school classmate Guy Forrest is accused of murdering his beautiful lover, Hailey Prouix, in their Main Line love nest, Carl agrees to represent him — while keeping silent about his own prior romantic involvement with the victim, and his present determination to see that his client is punished for the brutal crime. But once Carl sets the machinery of retribution in motion, it may be impossible to stop it, even after his certainty begins to crack. Now Victor Carl must race across the country to uncover shocking truths: Who, really, was Hailey Prouix? And why is a killer still waiting in her shadow?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At the start of this highly readable if predictable third thriller by Lashner (Hostile Witness; Veritas), Philadelphia lawyer Carl answers the late-night distress call of his friend Guy Forrest and finds him naked and sobbing on the front steps of a suburban house. Inside is the corpse of Guy's lover, Hailey Prouix, the woman for whom he left his devoted wife and kids. Even though at first he's unconvinced of Guy's innocence, Carl eventually agrees to represent Guy when he's charged with murder. Carl also holds an important secret that he keeps from Guy; from his own legal partner, Beth; from everyone, in fact, but the reader: Carl was Hailey Prouix's lover, too. In the novel's early chapters, Lashner effectively describes the mind games that Carl plays with himself, rationalizing decisions that are in his own best interest, if not those of his client. Once he believes Guy's earnest claims, Carl begins to probe Prouix's past, more to answer his own nagging questions about her than to find her killer or even to save Guy. The trail takes him to Las Vegas and to Prouix's childhood home in West Virginia. The past sins and crimes that Carl uncovers are of the predictably unspeakable variety. Indeed, the plot has a by-the-numbers feel: in one set piece, Carl is pursued and run off the road by a mystery car with tinted windows. What raises Lashner's thriller above the ordinary is its rich and resonant first-person narrative. Since his debut in 1995's Hostile Witness, the character of Carl has aged like fine wine. His wit is sharper and deeper now, but he also displays a bittersweet nostalgia and a more seasoned (if jaded) worldview. He's a provocative and entertaining guide, far more entertaining than the journey on which he leads us. 6-city author tour. (May 16) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Not-so-level-headed lawyer Victor Carl makes a big mistake: he agrees to represent a friend who appears to have murdered his seductive fiancee. Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Victor Carl, Philly defense lawyer, sidles back onstage in Lashner's latest legal melodrama. It seems like an open-and-shut case. Here's lawyer Guy Forrest, sitting outside his house in the Philly suburbs, naked, in the rain, his gun beside him; upstairs on the mattress lies his lover/fiancée, Hailey Prouix, dead by gunshot. A crime of passion, surely? That's what Victor thinks, discounting Guy's denials, and Victor should know: not only is he Guy's close friend (they were at law school together), but he himself had been sleeping with Hailey, a femme fatale who had both men bewitched. Indeed, Guy had left his wife and family to live with her. When Guy is arrested, Victor represents him, vowing to himself to put him away. But the discovery that Guy and Hailey's joint account has been cleaned out complicates matters. The key is a medical malpractice suit with Hailey and Guy on opposite sides: Hailey had seduced Guy in order to win massive damages for her client, and Guy's naïveté convinces Victor that his old friend is innocent. Now the hunt is on for the real killer, and the long winding trail takes Victor to a nursing home outside Las Vegas, and then to the West Virginia town where Hailey was raised (and her high school sweetheart possibly murdered). Along the way, before the eventual courtroom theatrics, we'll learn the Dark Secret that crippled Hailey and sent her twin sister into an asylum, a secret shamelessly embellished by Lashner's use of Stephen Hawking and Sylvia Plath as props. Other trademark over-the-top flourishes include a knife-wielding lesbian in a dark alley and a hit man who has torn his skin to tatters in self-loathing. It's the tallest of tall tales, of course, butit's got robust drive, and Lashner (Veritas, 1997, etc.) deserves a tip of the hat for Guy's Houdini-like escape from that opening set-up. Author tour

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Victor Carl Series , #3
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Read an Excerpt

Fatal Flaw

By William Lashner

William Morrow

ISBN: 0-06-050816-7

Chapter One

Guy Forrest was sitting on the cement steps outside the house when I arrived. His head was hidden in his hands. Rain fell in streams from his shoulders, his knees, tumbled off the roof of his brow. He was slumped naked in the rain, and beside his feet lay the gun.

From his nakedness and the diagonal despair of his posture, I suspected the worst.

"What did you do?" I shouted at him over the thrumming rain.

He didn't answer, he didn't move.

I prodded him with my foot. He collapsed onto his side.

"Guy, you bastard. What the hell did you do?"

His voice rose from the tangled limbs like the whimperings of a beaten dog. "I loved her. I loved her. I loved her."

Then I no longer suspected, then I knew.

I leaned over and lifted the gun by the trigger guard. No telling what more damage he could do with it. Careful to leave no prints, I placed it in my outside raincoat pocket. The door to the house was thrown open. I slipped around his heaving body and stepped inside. Later on, in the press, the house would be described as a Main Line love nest, but that raises images of a Stanford White-inspired palace of debauchery-red silk sheets and velvet wallpaper, a satin swing hanging from the rafters-but nothing could be further from the truth. It was a modest old stone house in a crowded Philadelphia suburb, just over City Line Avenue. The walls were bare, the furnishings sparse. A cheap table stood in the dining room to the left of the entrance, a television lay quiet before a threadbare couch in the living room to the right. There was a Jacuzzi in the bathroom, true, but in the furnishings there was a sense of biding time, of making do until real life with real furniture began. In the bedroom, up the stairs, I knew there to be a single bureau bought at some discount build-it-yourself place, a desk with stacks of bills, a fold-up chair, a mattress on the floor.

A mattress on the floor.

Well, maybe the press had it right after all, maybe it was a love nest, and maybe the mattress on the floor was the giveaway. For what would true lovers need with fine furnishings and fancy wallpaper? What would true lovers need with upholstered divans, with Klimts on the wall, with a grand piano in the formal living room? What would true lovers need with a hand-carved mahogany bed supporting a canopy of blue silk hanging over all like the surface of the heavens? Such luxury is only for those needing more in their lives than love. True lovers would require only a mattress on the floor to cast their spells one upon the other and enjoin the world to slip away. Until the world refused.

The mattress on the floor. That's where I would find her.

Rain dripped off my coat like tears as I climbed the stairway. My hand crept along the smooth banister. Around the landing, up another half flight. As I rose ever closer, my step slowed. A complex scent pressed itself upon me like a smothering pillow. I could detect the sharpness of cordite and something sweet beneath that, a memory scent from my college days touched now with jasmine, and then something else, something lower than the cordite and the sweetness, something coppery and sour, something desolate. A few steps higher and then to the left, to the master bedroom.

The door was open, the bedroom light was on, the mattress on the floor was visible from the hallway outside. And on it she lay, her frail, pale body twisted strangely among the clotted sheets.

There was no need to check a pulse or place a mirror over her mouth. I had seen dead before and she qualified. Her legs were covered by the dark blue comforter, but it was pulled down far enough to reveal her cream silk teddy, shamelessly raised above her naked belly. Crimson spotted the blanched white of her skin. The teddy was stained red at the heart.

I stood there for longer than I now can remember. The sight of her unnatural posture, the colliding scents of gunpowder and pot, of blood and jasmine, the brutal mark of violence on her chest, all of it, the very configuration of her death overwhelmed me. I was lost in the vision, swallowed whole by time. I can't tell you exactly what was flailing through my mind because it is lost to me now, just as I was lost to the moment, but when I recovered enough to function a decision had been made. A decision had been made. I'm not sure how, but I know why, I surely know why. A decision had been made, a decision I have never regretted, an implacable decision, yet pure and right, a decision had been made, and for the rest of my involvement in that death and its grisly aftermath that decision guided my every step, my every step, starting with the first.

I took a deep breath and entered the bedroom. I squatted, leaned over the mattress, touched her jaw. It was still slightly warm, but the joint now was not perfectly slack. The skin at the bottom of her arm had turned a purplish red. I pressed a finger into the skin; it whitened for an instant before the color returned. It had been about an hour, I calculated. Still squatting, I leaned farther forward and stared closely at her face.

Her name was Hailey Prouix. Black hair, blue eyes, long-necked and pale-skinned, she was thirty years old and lovely as a siren. While still alive she had peered out at the world with a wary detachment. She had seen too much to take anything at face value, her manner said as clear as words, she had been hurt too much to expect anything other than blows. She wore sharp, dark-rimmed glasses that were all business, but her mouth curved so achingly you couldn't look at it without wanting to take it in your own. And her stare, her stare, containing as it did both warning and dare, could weaken knees.


Excerpted from Fatal Flaw by William Lashner Excerpted by permission.
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