In Martin Clark’s richly drawn thriller “The Jezebel Remedy,” a husband-and-wife legal team in rural Virginia experience unforeseen complications when one of their clients dies in a home explosion.
‘The Jezebel Remedy’
by Martin Clark
Knopf, 382 pp., $27.95
Martin Clark’s latest novel is a legal thriller, but it’s far richer than the sort of book you think of when you see that description. There’s a mystery at its heart, as well as shady shenanigans, corporate conspiracy, thinly veiled threats and untimely demises.
But though Clark propels you swiftly with his delightfully wry prose, he doesn’t rely on cheap thrills to hold your attention. He creates characters so warm, real and flawed that you can’t help but follow their misadventures.
Clark sets his action in rural Virginia, where husband-and-wife team Lisa and Joe Stone have practiced at their tiny law firm for almost 20 years.
But Lisa has grown restless, “a bit stuck, preoccupied with the flat patches in her life, mulling and noodling, flummoxed by how she seemed to have wandered across an insidious boundary and been shanghaied into a dull land of earth tones, Scrabble games, paint-by-number vacations, Cinemax replays of ‘A Star is Born,’ monthly potlucks, Lean Cuisines, cobwebs, dust bunnies, marital conversations retarded by a mumbled ‘Huh?’ or a distracted ‘What, sweetie?’ ”
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She has grown impatient with Joe, and is considering starting up an ill-advised affair with another man.
She’s also irritated with Joe’s patience in dealing with their craziest client, Lettie VanSant, a paranoid, tattooed forty-something who lives in a trailer with way too many stray animals. Lettie is meth addict-skinny and rattles on like a lunatic, demanding patent protections for useless inventions and changing her will as often as most people change their pants.
Then there’s an explosion at Lettie’s trailer and her body is found in the ruins. A new will pops up, leaving everything to Joe, who’s a good guy and signs everything over to Lettie’s oddly nervous son. But wait. What if Lettie actually invented something revolutionary?
Clark invests us in the Stones’ personal dramas, and his regional cadences are a refreshing change in this crowded genre. “The Jezebel Remedy” could be the start of a wonderful series. But it’s damned good on its own.