Desperate Shop Girls (2015)


Gersh (Art Is Dead, 2006), a former attorney, charmingly lampoons his one-time profession in this lighthearted legal thriller.

James Emerson “Jimmy” Harris is an alcoholic, sketchy lawyer who gave up defending drug dealers in the city of San Buenasera, California, to go into practice in a small coastal California town. He’s no Perry Mason; his paralegal, Clyde, handles all legal matters for him, while his partner, Karen, does his analytical thinking. Instead, the wisecracking, self-deprecating Jimmy reacts impulsively when opportunity arises. So when Janet Mason, star of the recent television show Desperate Shop Girls, walks into his office wanting to divorce her developer husband and put a stop to his current project, Jimmy doesn’t think too deeply about it. But Karen does: “But why would she want to stop the development? It’s part of the community estate. She’ll lose half the money.” Mix in a vengeful mortician, a stern FBI agent, and a threatening, mob-connected union boss, and Gersh has all the makings for a wonderfully convoluted mystery. The author skillfully blends his narrator’s internal monologue and his sarcastic dialogue with others to propel the narrative along. Take, for example, this explanation of Jimmy’s ethics: “I’m an attorney. I’ve humbly bent the knee of fealty to my lord client. I’ve attorned. Get it? Attorney, attorned.” The author also sketches colorful characters, as seen by his snarky protagonist; here’s Jimmy’s take on the local police chief: “When he was a patrolman, the town had been beset by the scourge of jaywalking. He was assigned to a task force to stamp it out. It was that success that got him his job as our Chief of Police.” Confused Jimmy is so busy going down his own rabbit holes that readers will likely figure out whodunit and why long before he does. However, the way that Gersh guides Jimmy to the case’s conclusion is what makes this novel so enjoyable.

A welcome new approach to the small-town legal thriller.

Kirkus Review