Sunday, 19 April 2020
LAWRENCE BLOCK - DEFENDER OF THE INNOCENT (2014)
The criminal defense lawyer. Redefined.
Martin H. Ehrengraf, dapper and diabolical, may be Lawrence Block's darkest creation. He's the defense attorney who never sees the inside of a courtroom, because all his clients are innocent - no matter how guilty they may seem. Some even believe themselves to be guilty: They remember pulling the trigger, or wiring the dynamite to their spouse's car, or holding the bloody blade. But things have a way of working out when Martin Ehrengraf is on the case. Evidence turns up, incriminating someone else. More murders occur, with the same M.O. And the gate of the jail cell opens, and the accused walks free.
But be careful - hiring Martin Ehrengraf comes with a price. A high price, one that comes due even if he appears to have done nothing on your behalf. And you'd better be prepared to pay...
Here at last are the complete exploits of Martin Ehrengraf: a dozen delicious tales of vice and villainy including one - ''The Ehrengraf Fandango'' - that is appearing for the first time anywhere. It's a 12-course meal of sinister surprises, exquisitely prepared and served simmering hot by the greatest living master of mystery fiction.
Another Lawrence Block book enjoyed on Audible during the month of February.
Twelve short stories, each comprising a case for Block's defense attorney Martin Ehrengraf.
I've briefly encountered Ehrenegraf before in The Ehrengraf Fandango last year.
Here for the sake of completists (of which I'm one) we have......
“The Ehrengraf Defense” © 1976
“The Ehrengraf Presumption” © 1978
“The Ehrengraf Experience” © 1978
“The Ehrengraf Appointment” © 1978
“The Ehrengraf Riposte” © 1978
“The Ehrengraf Obligation” © 1979
“The Ehrengraf Alternative” © 1982
“The Ehrengraf Nostrum” © 1984
“The Ehrengraf Affirmation” © 1997
“The Ehrengraf Reverse” © 2002
“The Ehrengraf Settlement” © 2012
“The Ehrengraf Fandango” © 2014
Afterword from the author
Most of these originally appeared as one-off stories in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine with a few appearances elsewhere, probably around the time of the copyright date.
I really enjoyed the collection and the narration, so much so I re-listened to it again during April.
Block's protagonist is a dapper defense attorney who only defends the innocent and never appears in court. Ehrengraf's clients in each and every case, with the exception of one I think, face murder charges and the evidence against them in always pretty compelling.....
A woman murdered with a fire axe - our client has such an axe and a drug habit which causes blackouts, memory loss and no alibi.
A man shot in his drawing room - our client owns the gun which killed him, was present and has gun shot residue on her fingers.
A girl strangled with a Cadman society tie - our defendant is a member of the Cadman society and had a relationship with the girl.
Ehrengraf outlines his terms, agrees a fee, and then after a suitable interlude he's meeting his client for payment, the charges against them miraculously dropped after new facts come to light...... a copy cat killing or two, a mass poisoning outbreak, a helpful suicide with a note confessing guilt and exhonerating Ehrengraf's client, etc etc.
All our accompanying killings take place off-page and Ehrengraf's involvement is all the more chilling for Block only ever alluding to his man's actions. On a couple of occasions, our lawyer has to explain certain actions which leave our clients in no doubt as to the capabilities of the man and the lengths to which he is prepared to go to achieve the desired outcome. It's usually when the client is rich and has second thoughts as to paying Ehrengraf's fee as from an initial glance his efforts do not appear to have resulted in the charges being dropped. As a reader we know the man's MO. It's fun seeing the realisation dawn on them and the terror on their faces as they appreciate just how dangerous the dapper little man is.
Overall I really liked the collection. Looking back some of the cases are kind of blurred and listening to them one after another they could lose some of their power. Typically the book on both occasions took about three or four days to enjoy, so that wasn't really a problem. There's also plenty of variety in the material - a man of Block's abilities isn't really going to repeat himself 12 times over.
I think my favourites were the opener - The Ehrengraf Defense which introduces the well dressed lawyer and allows us a glimpse of his true nature and another case - name escapes me - which doesn't include murder but some conflict resolution between a disabled house bound troublemaker and his hapless victim.
4.5 from 5
Read - (listened to) February, 2020
Published - 2014
Page count - 237 (6 hrs 44 min)
Source - Audible download code received from author's assistant. (I do have a print copy somewhere)
Format - Audible