Teddy Maxwell had been the best criminal defense lawyer in town though he certainly wasn’t the most ethical. A gunshot to the head took him down and pretty much stopped his legal career. These days while he does show up at the office, he has a hard time with memory issues and various cognitive problems. It’s been two and a half years since that day and Leo Maxwell still hopes that someday his brother might live on his own.


In the meantime Leo has a major trial coming up with his client Marty Scarsdale. He stands accused of sexually assaulting Erica Lawler, the 13 year old friend of Scarsdale’s daughter, Angela. The crime allegedly happened during a sleepover in the Scarsdale home. The evidence is against Scarsdale and includes the massive amount of detail that Erica has testified to in police interviews and will no doubt repeat in court. The fact that Marty’s wife has kicked him out of their home raises the stress level on the client and does nothing to make him more sympathetic to the jury. Leo figures that if he can win the case he can make a name for himself and strike out on his own. A win would give him his freedom from Teddy’s ex-wife Jeanie who is his boss and has a very different way of looking at cases and life in general than Leo.


Her control of him and how he wants to practice law constantly grates on his nerves. While winning the Scarsdale case would be a good opportunity there may even be a better one. Jamil Robinson is in the Santa Rita Jail and has sent his sister, Lavonia Martin, to meet with Leo. According to her, Oakland Police are about to discover that the gun they recovered from Jamil’s car the night before was used in a murder two weeks ago. Jamil is on parole so a gun in his car is a ticket straight back to prison. That is bad enough but he expects to be accused of murder once the police id the weapon. The murder victim was one of the leaders in the local drug trade. She claims that a crooked police detective named Campbell planted the gun in the car after Jamil had been falsely arrested during a rigged traffic stop. She has ten thousand dollars in cash and a brother she is desperate to help in any way possible.


Before long Leo finds out that nothing is as it seems at home or at work in Lion Plays Rough:  A Leo Maxwell Mystery. Readers soon discover that while nothing is as it seems in either case, plot coincidences will drive the majority of this book where Leo will be saved again and again from a certain and very painful death. In a book that is ploddingly slow, especially from a book labeled a thriller by the publisher, Leo and readers grind though cases that go nowhere fast.


After the incredibly good Bear is Broken this second book of the series goes nowhere fast.  The elements of a really good thriller are present with plenty of angst at home and at work, crooked cops, drug dealers, and more in two very complicated cases. But, there is little to no suspense in the grind to the conclusion of each case as well as a high degree of predictability. The astounding number of coincides rise to such a level by the end of the book that the reader is forgiven the occasional chuckle. One hopes that this book is a temporary setback and the next one in the series proves to be as good as the first.


Lion Plays Rough: A Leo Maxwell Mystery

Lachlan Smith


The Mysterious Press (imprint of Grove/Atlantic)




Hardback (audio and e-book available)

250 Pages



Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano Texas Public Library System.



Kevin R. Tipple ©2014

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