THE HIDDEN MAN by David Ellis
I hadn’t heard of David Ellis before this novel. I picked it up at the library after reading a couple of glowing reviews about the new series hero, Jason Kolarich because he was a football player turned attorney who wasn’t afraid to mix it up when things turned physical. I always root for a hero like that.
I have to admit, I was pretty bummed when I discovered that Kolarich was mourning the loss of his wife and daughter, and that mourning lasts a lot of the novel. It was really a downer for me to have to accept, but the case was intriguing enough that I had to continue on.
I also love stories about family and friends that turn out to be complicated, and especially ones that make a character take a good, hard look at where they came from. The Hidden Man makes that happen in spades.
Six months into his dark period, Kolarich is approached by a mysterious Mr. Smith to defend a childhood friend of Kolarich’s. That would have gotten my attention anyway, but then an added kicker was that the friend (Sammy Cutler) supposedly killed the man who abducted his two-year-old sister nearly thirty years ago. Police never found her body, and the man Cutler killed was a convicted pedophile that lived nearby.
I was intrigued by the mystery of what happened all those years ago, and who Mr. Smith ultimately represented that he was working so hard to keep hidden. That mystery deepens even more when Mr. Smith dumps an expiration time on the court trial, giving Kolarich only a month to prepare for a homicide trial. Then, when Kolarich tries to wiggle out of it, Mr. Smith sends a goon squad after him and his family. The constant threat amped up the whole book.
Kolarich has got a lot of old skeletons in the closet to dig out. He has a lot of regrets and screwed up family, which makes him an even more interesting character to read about. I enjoyed all these cruises down memory lane, but I know those probably can’t be continued throughout the series. I also liked Kolarich’s relationship with his near-do-well younger brother as well.
Although the book started out kind of slow, I thought, the last half of it more than made up for it. Kolarich is both a cerebral and action-oriented hero. He was outthinking his opponents in the courtroom and mixing it up with street toughs with the best of them. I had a blast with this one and am looking forward to the next book.