George Dawes Green, The Juror (Warner, 1995)
[originally posted 12Dec2001]
George Dawes Green wrote The Caveman’s Valentine, which netted him the Edgar. He then followed it up with the equally acclaimed The Juror, and proceeded to drop off the face of the earth, foiling a carefully-plotted career as a bestselling mystery novelist. Go figure. Based on the quality of his first two books, a whole lot of folks wish he’d come back.
Green’s second novel introduces us to The Teacher, a part-time mob enforcer, Taoist, and grower of rare orchids whose present job entails tampering with a jury to make sure his part-time employer doesn’t go to jail. Problem is, the Teacher starts getting emotionally involved with the juror, and the two of them end up doing a rather dysfunctional dance that ends up with a whole lot of people dying.
It’s an absorbing novel, and a quick read. The characters are strongly drawn and identifiable, and the plot is excellently paced. The book’s main flaw is that it relies a bit much on coincidences (of the “of all the gin joints in the world…” variety) that stretch credibility too far. But mystery novels rely on coincidence, and so we have to be willing to forgive Green in order to bask in the luxury of his writing. And it is certainly worth forgiving him, as the characters he creates here will be with you long after you turn the last page. *** ½