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Cheater's Game: A Jake Lassiter Thriller


Cheater's Game: A Jake Lassiter Thriller

CHEATER’S GAME is a welcome surprise. I wasn’t entirely sure that there was going to be another Paul Levine novel, particularly one featuring defense attorney extraordinaire Jake Lassiter. Yet here we are, and it turns out to be one of the best installments in this long-running series. Readers of these books are aware that Levine is incapable of writing badly, but this latest entry turns things up a notch by putting literally everything on the line for Lassiter.

One of the reasons that I always recommend this series to friends is that newcomers can literally start with any of the (now) 14 books without feeling as if they are hopelessly lost in the background. In CHEATER’S GAME, Levine once again wastes little time in dropping just enough breadcrumbs of Lassiter’s backstory so that even those new to the series can immediately follow along.

"Readers of these books are aware that Levine is incapable of writing badly, but this latest entry turns things up a notch by putting literally everything on the line for Lassiter."

Lassiter, a former college and professional football player, has been diagnosed with the very real-world condition of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTI), which includes such symptoms as memory loss, mood swings, depression and headaches. Lassiter has now given up his criminal defense practice and is in the somewhat unusual (for him) position of being a prosecutor. He’s not prosecuting just anyone, though. He’s employed by the State Bar Association for the purpose of bringing lawyers who are accused of violating the attorney code of ethics before the court.

However, this new phase of Lassiter’s career is put on hold when his nephew Kip is arrested for being involved in an extremely lucrative college admissions scam. Twenty-year-old Kip is earning major cheddar by working for a Svengali-type entrepreneur who is utilizing his ideas and smarts to get the children of the rich and famous into universities that they would not have a prayer of being admitted to unaided. This aid includes everything from resume padding to functioning as a ringer during college admissions testing. Lassiter had warned Kip about the job, but his reservations fell on deaf ears. Things change when federal charges are brought against the program. Kip is last to the party when the time comes to making a deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which has tape recordings, witness testimony, and an army of legal clerks and counsel arrayed against Kip, who has Lassiter on his side.

It would be an almost lopsided battle against Kip in any event, but Lassiter is hardly at the top of his game. He is having memory lapses, is prone to inappropriate outbursts inside and outside of the courtroom, and has headaches that flair up without any warning and at the worst possible times. What he does retain are his trial skills and instincts, the support of his too-good-to-be-true physician and fiancée, and --- perhaps most importantly --- his deep and abiding love for Kip, who he has raised as a son since he was a child. It isn’t immediately obvious, but maybe it’s the prosecution that is overwhelmed here.

I noted earlier that I was surprised to see another Lassiter novel. That is because of the introduction of the CTI diagnosis into Lassiter’s life. Along with calling attention to this serious condition, Levine has sympathetically utilized it as a plot element to effectively add more suspense into the overall story arc. It is one of the loudest ticking clocks in fiction, which I, for one, hope never tolls.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on April 24, 2020

Cheater's Game: A Jake Lassiter Thriller
by Paul Levine

  • Publication Date: April 20, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 422 pages
  • Publisher: Herald Square Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 173425100X
  • ISBN-13: 9781734251005