The Mayor of Lexington Avenue

The Mayor of Lexington Avenue

3.9 24
by James Sheehan, Dick Hill

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Murder, corruption, justice... .....time is running out for Rudy Kelly.

In a small Florida town near Lake Okeechobee, an innocent young man's fate hangs in the balance.  Rudy Kelly, bi-racial and borderline retarded is targeted by the local police as a suspect in a brutal murder. Convinced of his innocence, his mother hires a famous defense attorney,


Murder, corruption, justice... .....time is running out for Rudy Kelly.

In a small Florida town near Lake Okeechobee, an innocent young man's fate hangs in the balance.  Rudy Kelly, bi-racial and borderline retarded is targeted by the local police as a suspect in a brutal murder. Convinced of his innocence, his mother hires a famous defense attorney, but loses him when her money runs out. Turned over to the drunken public defender, and framed by the police and prosecutor, Rudy is convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. 

After spending ten years on death row, top trial lawyer Jack Tobin, a boyhood friend of his father's, learns of Rudy's situation and decides to take on the case. 

Jack engages in a non-stop race against time to uncover evidence to exonerate Rudy and overturn his conviction. 

Through fierce courtroom battles, legal maneuverings, and surprise twists and turns, Jack Tobin fights to see justice done against Jimmy DiCarlo, the well-connected Miami criminal lawyer steeped in corruption.

More than a typical legal thriller, THE MAYOR OF LEXINGTON AVENUE tells a story of enduring friendships, love and loss, promises kept and loyalties fulfilled, all against a backdrop that sweeps from the streets of New York City to the bayous and barrios of Florida.

Editorial Reviews

Marilyn Stasio
Sheehan, a trial lawyer in Tampa, writes with bleak clarity when he's sharing the dirty tricks of his trade in the harrowing trial scenes, but there's a touch of the poet in his voice when he turns to Rudy and Bass Creek and the kind of innocence that gets crushed in the infernal coils of the law.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Sheehan's 2005 debut legal tale sets up an interesting albeit somewhat hackneyed plot of a mentally deficient yet lovable young man, Rudy, who is found guilty of murder through incompetence, bigotry and the laziness of smalltown policemen. Can his late father's longtime friend save Rudy from the death penalty? Hill's award-winning voice seems to falter here. His young characters' voices at times are forced and exaggerated while he occasionally mixes up voices, accents and even sexes. Hill does manage to inflect subtlety in many of his character voices, which reveals a range of emotions. His narrative voice overall is steady and appealing, and he keeps a steady pace with the narrative and does well emphasizing relevant parts. Sheehan's text lacks the intensity that often suits Hill's more impressive performances. A St. Martin's paperback (Reviews, Sept. 5, 2005). (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher
"This is a debut novel, but it reads like it was written by a master of the genre." —Nelson DeMille
Nelson DeMille
"This is a debut novel but it reads like it was written by a master of the genre."
on The Mayor of Lexington Avenue - Booklist
"Here's a legal thriller that's so good it instantly leaves Grisham and the gang choking on its dust..."
Chicago Tribune
"To Kill A Mockingbird on steroids..."
Richard North Patterson
"Fast moving and tightly written...boasts a gripping story and characters who will make the reader care. Al in all, a stylish and engaging novel."
New York Law Journal
The New York Times
Praise for James Sheehan's previous novels:

"Sheehan...writes with bleak clarity...but there's a touch of the poet in his voice."

on The Mayor of Lexington Avenue Booklist
"Here's a legal thriller that's so good it instantly leaves Grisham and the gang choking on its dust..."

Product Details

Tantor Media, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Library - Unabridged CD
Product dimensions:
6.84(w) x 6.32(h) x 0.94(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

January 1986, Bass Creek, Florida

Lucy liked to fish in the daylight. She enjoyed seeing her prey, but it was even more important that they see her. Focus their eyes on the feast while she set the hook ever so gently. She hooked Rudy the first time she walked into his store in her dungaree short-shorts and tight tank top.

"Hypnotize 'em and hook 'em," she would have told her class if she had taught the sport. Rudy could have been exhibit number one. He couldn't keep his eyes off her and he couldn't hide it either. Luckily there was only one other customer in the store, an old man Rudy rang up without so much as a glance. Lucy could tell she had him without even looking.

"Weight on the line. That's how you do it, ladies. It's all feel. And be patient. Don't yank too quickly or he'll get away. Let him run a little till he's out of breath. Then you've got him. Catch him first—you can always throw him back."

Rudy could have done some fishing of his own if he'd known how. Unlike Lucy, who packed it all into a small, tight body, Rudy was tall, the olive skin of his chiseled face punctuated with fierce brown eyes and framed by thick, coal black hair that shone like silk—hair that women dreamed about for themselves. Lucy wasn't the first woman who had tried to hook young Rudy. They came in every night to the convenience store where he worked, every shape and size and age, but Rudy had been oblivious until now.

Lucy did that to the men from the barrios wherever she went. This one was on the outskirts of Bass Creek, a small town in the central portion of Florida just north of Lake Okeechobee. It was populated by Mexicans, Colombians, Indians, Puerto Ricans—mostly pickers, mostly seasonal. They lived in single-wides or housing provided by the growers—cinder block shacks with running water.

But Rudy didn't live in the barrio, he wasn't seasonal and he wasn't a picker. He had come to Bass Creek with his mother, Elena Kelly, when he was a boy. They had lived in a run-down motel for a while until Elena got a job as a maid at the Bass Creek Hotel, the largest hotel in town, located just under the new bridge over the Okalatchee River.

Everybody liked the idea of the new bridge when word got around that they were going to build it. The old drawbridge was ugly, slow and cumbersome and it caused backups every fifteen minutes as it raised and lowered for the steady flow of river traffic. The new bridge would be modern and sleek and high enough so even the largest sailboats could cruise by unimpeded. The new bridge was supposed to provide local jobs and money. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. Outside contractors were hired for the construction and brought their own people. Those workers stayed during the week and filled up the hotels but they were a vile lot, drinking and fighting and abusing the town. Elena, who was probably the prettiest woman in Bass Creek, had to stay hidden behind a locked door after dark. Rudy saw the change in her but never really understood it.

When the bridge was finally completed, the workers left and the cars flew by in one continuous stream. No need to stop anymore to let the highway of sailboats pass. No need to pull into this little town to browse, or eat, or perhaps spend the night. Bass Creek had been a rest stop on a friendly stream for tourists on their way to Miami or Fort Lauderdale. The old bridge had been the comma that caused those tourists to pause. Now the pause was gone, and the folks of Bass Creek who didn't own orange groves, who survived in the service industries, took the brunt of the loss.

Sure, they still had the fishermen, but the fishing on Lake Okeechobee was a far cry from what it had been fifteen, twenty years ago. Overfishing and pollution had taken their toll on the old lake. Elena had worked hard those first few years before the new bridge and she'd made good money. And Bass Creek had been a good town to live in. Now it had lost its vitality. Stores on Main Street had been forced to close. McDonald's and Burger King had built out by the highway and lured back some, but few of them were trickling into town.

The Bass Creek Hotel stood a full three stories high, the largest building in town. Before the new bridge was built, its coat of bright yellow paint had shone like the sun itself in the afternoon light. Part of Elena's compensation had been a room to live in and meals in the hotel dining room for her and young Rudy. After she had inherited the manager's position when the old manager deserted the place, Elena took over the large apartment in the back, which had two bedrooms and a full kitchen, and both she and Rudy had loved it. But now the hotel lay hidden from the sun, separated from the rest of the town, a gloomy, desolate place.

"How much is this?" Lucy was leaning on the counter holding a liter of Diet Coke with the price tag clearly visible. Rudy tried to concentrate on her bright white teeth, which were wrestling with a wad of gum, but in her low-cut, body-tight top, Lucy was providing him with a glimpse of something much more exotic. He couldn't help but steal a glance. The store was now empty.

"How much?" Lucy broke the spell momentarily.

"Oh. Sorry. Ninety-nine cents. It's on special."

"You're sure? You're not just giving me a special deal, are you?" Lucy leaned all the way over, and Rudy could see the full contour of her breasts. He was thankful the counter shielded him from the waist down, but Lucy knew anyway. The hook was in.

"No. No. That's the price," he answered, his voice cracking.

"Well, I don't believe you." She crossed her arms tight against her breasts as she leaned. Rudy thought they were going to pop out right there on the counter. His mouth hung open in anticipation. "I don't take a favor without returning one," Lucy continued. "You come to my trailer tonight. Forty-four Mercer Street. It don't matter what time, I'll be there." Rudy just nodded. He was too far gone to speak.

As soon as she left he grabbed a pencil and wrote down the address. Rudy was handsome and his smile could light up a room, but he was slow. "Not retarded, just slow," the doctor had told Elena when she took him to be tested at age four when he hadn't spoken one word. There was some technical jargon about a lack of oxygen when he was coming down the birth canal but Elena had been too shell-shocked to take in the details. Eventually, she had learned to cope and taught young Rudy to do the same. Writing things down right away was one of his methods. Staying out of dangerous situations was another. Something inside him warned that Lucy was danger but the urgings from another part of his body were all that Rudy heard.

He closed up at eleven and practically ran over to Mercer Street. There were no street lamps and at first he couldn't find Forty-four but then he saw it, set back from the street in the darker shadows.

As he stood outside her door and got ready to knock, Rudy was as excited as a kid on his first date, which wasn't too far off. Sure, he'd been out with girls during high school, but there hadn't been many. He knew why, too. He'd heard the all-too-loud whispers behind his back. Nobody really messed with him because he'd quieted the first couple of kids who called him "Dumbo" or "Dunce" or "Shithead" to his face, but the whispers had never stopped. In fact, Rudy had never even made it to the proverbial second base. It was a part of his life that he tried not to think about, that he kept sealed behind a locked door, a lock that Lucy had picked in a matter of seconds.

She was waiting for him but she didn't answer right away. "Let the anticipation build," she would have told her class. Lucy had a doctorate in the subject of men, or so she thought.

She'd put on her ruby red lipstick. She always saved it for nights like this. Rudy hardly noticed. When she opened the door, all he saw was a sheer white teddy barely concealing those wondrous breasts he hadn't stopped thinking about since she'd first teased him with them in the convenience store. He steadied himself from shaking. Lucy moved closer so he could catch the scent of her perfume.

"Are those for me?" she asked surprised, as she looked down at the bouquet of cheap flowers Rudy had grabbed off the counter as he charged out of the store. For just a moment she was touched: Not too many men brought her flowers. Rudy was so enraptured he'd forgotten he was even holding them.

"Oh, these? Yeah, I brought them for you."

"Why, thank you!" Lucy took his hand, led him through to the living room and sat him down on the couch. "Now you relax. I'll put these in some water and I'll be right back."

She threw the flowers on the counter in the kitchen and was back in an instant, carrying two frosty mugs. She was eager to land this fresh young catch and alcohol always helped.

"I only have beer," she lied as she handed him the mug. A red flag went up in Rudy's head. Alcohol was another one of those dangers his mother had warned him about. But somehow he couldn't say no, couldn't bring himself to disrupt the mood. He took the beer and gulped down a quick mouthful.

Lucy slithered up next to him and tucked her feet underneath her. Rudy was afraid to look down, afraid to discover if she was really wearing panties. They sat there like that making small talk for a half hour or so, Rudy sipping nervously at his beer and Lucy becoming increasingly impatient. Finally, she took his mug and headed to the kitchen for a refill.

She had no formal education but Lucy was wise in the ways of the world. His first few words had told her he was just a boy in a man's body, and she had pretty much decided she was going to call it a night. But she couldn't stop thinking about the excitement in his eyes. She hadn't seen that kind of anticipation in a long time. Maybe it will be fun, she thought. And he is so beautiful. . . . She poured a shot of Jack Daniel's into his second beer.

The Jack Daniel's did it. Rudy began to relax, touching her face gently with the palm of his hand, massaging her neck, all the while responding to her passionate kisses. He moved his hand slowly to the edge of her teddy, and then, at last, he was caressing those warm, perfect breasts. Waves of delirious pleasure washed over him, and he could feel the blood rushing from his head.

Suddenly it was all too much. He was dizzy, his head was reeling and his stomach was churning. He knew he was about to be sick. He made a mad dash for the front door and the outside air but his knee hit the coffee table as he started to rise, tipping his beer mug over. Already off balance, he tried to grab the mug and caught it just as he hit the floor, smashing it to pieces. The mood was permanently and irrevocably broken.

"I'm sorry," he spluttered as he gazed at his hand, which was bleeding profusely from a nasty gash and dripping blood onto the carpet. "I'll clean everything up." He still felt sick but the accident had erased the sudden urge to puke, at least momentarily. Lucy stared at the broken glass and the blood on the carpet. She stifled the urge to scream.

"That's okay, I'll get it. But I think you should go now." Without waiting for a reply she helped him up and ushered him to the front door, grabbing some paper towels on the way and stuffing them into his still-bleeding hand. "I'll call you," she told him as she not-so-politely pushed him out and closed the door behind him.

Rudy staggered down the street a few doors until he could no longer hold it, then puked on a patch of grass that masqueraded as the front lawn of Carlos and Pilar Rodriguez.

Farther south on Mercer Street, Geronimo Cruz was drinking beer with two of his "friends," Raymond Castro and José Guerrero. Geronimo was from Texas, and he always carried a knife. Ray and José hung around with him only because Geronimo had chosen them and they were afraid to turn down the invitation.

Ray and José had been sitting on the stoop of Ray's apartment one night about a month before when Geronimo showed up.

"Got an extra cerveza?" he inquired.

"Sure," Ray responded. That was all it took. They couldn't get rid of him after that. Every night he stopped by, and every night he was empty-handed. He told them about men he had stabbed, women he had raped, always brandishing his knife with the serrated edge. Both men wished they had never met him.

They knew he was seeing Lucy because he bragged about her. Two or three nights a week, they watched him stroll over towards her trailer after a few beers. They knew Lucy, knew of her affinity for men like Geronimo. They figured she could handle herself.

They were on their third beer the night Rudy came stumbling down the street and started puking on the Rodriguez lawn. Geronimo's eyes narrowed.

"Who the fuck is that?"

"I don't know," Ray responded. "I saw him go in Lucy's just before you showed up." The words came out without thinking. Ray wanted to slap himself when he realized what he had done. Geronimo immediately put down his beer and drifted into the shadows, walking towards Lucy's trailer.

Copyright © 2005 by James Sheehan. All rights reserved.

What People are saying about this

Nelson DeMille
" If you like South Florida crime novels, legal thrillers, and courtroom dramas, then you'll love The Mayor of Lexington Avenue, which has all three, plus some nostalgic New York City flashbacks as an added bonus.

James Sheehan, a Florida trial attorney, has created Jack Tobin, a Florida trial attorney, and one of the most interesting and complex characters I've come across in a long time...This is a debut novel, but it reads like it was written by a master of the genre."
June 14, 2005

From the Publisher
"This is a debut novel, but it reads like it was written by a master of the genre." —-Nelson DeMille

Meet the Author

James Sheehan is the author of The Lawyer's Lawyer, The Mayor of Lexington Avenue, and The Law of Second Chances. He was a successful trial attorney for 30 years, and currently teaches trial law and is the Director of the Tampa Law Institute at Stetson University College of Law in Tampa, Florida.
Learn more at

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Mayor of Lexington Avenue 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One reviewer who gave this novel a high rating questioned why someone else only gave it one star. I found it neither a compelling read nor something to toss out. The story certainly started out on a strong note, introducing the victim, the killer, and the person who would be blamed right from the get go. From there forward I thought the story would be about a down-to-the-wire but just-in-time save of poor Rudy Kelly from death row. Of course, it wasn't, and that's what made it a different kind of story. (Hence my 4-star rating for originality). The novel became uneven, however, when Jack as an adult enters the plot. Too much of the dialogue didn't sound right, and many of the characters became uneven in their behaviors. For example, Rudy Kelly--who was described throughout the story as borderline retarded--suddenly became unusually profound in his comments. I also found too many of the characters to be one-dimensional (clear good guys and bad guys in this story folks) And the various romantic relationships that suddenly developed were described too much like an 8th-grader telling about them. Where the story was strong, however, was in ending with a sense of justice being served while still leaving you understanding that good guys (like Rudy and Nancy) don't always win.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I see that one of the reviewers on this page could only award this book one star. Why? I wonder. I bought the book and was gripped by the story from the get-go. James Sheehan's style, the feeling he could get across about the principal characters, and the story-line is beautifully crafted. John Grisham's 'The Innocent Man' touches on the same subject, miscarriage of justice but James Sheehan's story carries the same powerful message that justice must be done and also seen to be done. Splendid book. I look forward to another book from this masterly pen.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel was the ultimate joy to read. Well written, great story line and characterizations. Highly recommended to all.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1986 Bass Creek, Florida, Geronimo Cruz is drinking when he sees someone leave the trailer of Lucy Ochoa. He enters her abode to ask her who the youngster is, but she insists he was only the drunken kid from the convenience store who stayed a few minutes. Geronimo thinks he never expected the loose woman to remain faithful, but lying is unacceptable. He slits her throat. --- Police Detective Sergeant Wesley Brume hones in on bi-racially Rudy Kelly as the prime suspect Rudy worries because he had sex with Lucy just before she died. His mother hires lawyer Tracey James, who initially handles the case but drops it when her client can no longer pay her fee. The Cobb County public defender provides a poor defense while the prosecutor Clay Evans and Wes doctor ¿evidence¿ to insure that Rudy is convicted of first-degree murder. A decade later with Rudy¿s execution coming soon, trial lawyer Jack Tobin learns of the case and decides to take it on pro bono, but no one wants to admit that they framed Rudy and much of the trial evidence and related documents is officially ¿unavailable¿ in a timely manner. --- THE MAYOR OF LEXINGTON AVENUE is a terrific legal thriller that will grip readers with its strong condemnation of the American capital punishment system. The story line is action-packed though flashbacks to 1950s-1960s New York slow down the pace yet provides the personal impetus for Jack to take on the case. The cast consists of multi dimensional people but the star is the abuse of power by the state in death row cases. Unless you¿re the state electrician, sub-genre fans will appreciate this deep cautionary thriller. --- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. For everything there is a season. For everything there is a reason. Do not read the long reviews. To much info. Just read the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading the mayor of lexington avenue.As good as grisham , my all time favourite author.Kept me up all night. Am glad to learn that his next release comes out in march.I will be a first day buyer of same.Read the 2 other reviews.Can only tell reviewer who did not like the book to realise how many interesting ideas of how to win a case were presented.We all procrastinate about some things especially of friends from our childhood.Reading this book made me think about a lot of things. If the author can make me think, he deserves my patronage.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read an advanced copy of this book not expecting to finish--I ended up not being able to put it down. I would recommend to anyone. Looking forward to reading more of James Sheehan in the future.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read a lot of great reviews on James Sheehan, a Tampa resident. This book had a great premise, but the writing, especially the dialogue, was very rote and stilted. I am not sure if it is the order of the story told, the cursory description of various covered up killings, but the story lacked an emotional connection for me. Narrative was simple. Quick read. Don't let anyone tell you it is comparable to John Grisham. It is not.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was ok, and well written, but I read Blood and Ashes first and preferred it much more to this. Light read, good bedtime book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After the first 25 pages i almost put the book down in disgust. I thought the rest of the book was going to be a long drawn out trial wirh lots of misrepresentation but that is not where the author went with it and it turned out to be a good book. I am still for the death penalty...don't throw the baby out with the bath water...but we definitely have some work to do on the judicial system. The court rulings in the story stretch plausability at times which is where the real issue is, if they in anyway represent what would happen in the 'real' world. Still, a good story and one i enjoyed to the end. Glad i didn't give up after the first 25 pages.
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Get a life all res. Yuppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppplfy
Guest More than 1 year ago
There are 'blurbs' on the front and back of this book extolling it as one of the best legal thrillers ever written, penned by a first-time author who writes like an old pro. I don't know what book they were reading, because it sure wasn't 'The Mayor of Lexington Avenue'. This is truly one of the most poorly written books I have ever read. The author telegraphs every piece of dialogue. The characters were poorly drawn and not interesting at all. And they are incosistent in their positions. On one page, a character is reluctant to do something and by the next page he acquiesces. The courtroom scenes lack any sort of tension. You can see the plot points coming a mile away. The 'flashback' scenes lacked any compelling emotion and you can't really care about the character of 'Mikey' because he is not fleshed out. But my main complaint is that it is horribly written. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the author published it himself because I can't imagine a decent publishing house accepting this piece of dreck.