Jersey Law by Ron Leibman

A hard-boiled legal thriller with lots of laughs and an accent that’s all Jersey, but with a sensitive side as well.

Accomplished D.C. lawyer Ron Liebman evokes a sharply realistic and very funny New Jersey underworld in his second novel, Jersey Law (following Death to Rodrigo). Fans of Michael Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer will enjoy the well-meaning but mildly rule-bending team of Mickie and Junne, criminal defense attorneys for inner-city Camden’s drug dealers and lowlifes. They defend drug kingpin Slippery Williams; they spar with the DA; and they carefully balance the letter of the law with watching their backs. Junne (short for Junior), our narrator, places us firmly in the Camden streets with his conversational style, what he would call “street jive.” Don’t mind the sentence fragments; they make the book breathe in Junne’s terse Jersey voice.

Mickie and Junne have been friends since middle school, and have their practice down to a fine art. When one of their clients decides to testify against another, however, their loyalties are tested. If they warn the client, who is an old friend, men will certainly die, and they will have broken client confidentiality; if they don’t, it may mean their own demise. And then there’s their new secretary to worry about: Tamara is working hard to keep her nephew off the streets and out of the gang life. Tamara is an excellent example of one of Liebman’s strengths as a novelist: he creates funny, sympathetic characters we care about in spite of their flaws.

Junne’s large Italian family, Mickie’s womanizing and their shady lawyer-landlord fit perfectly in with the scenery. By turns poignant and suspenseful, Jersey Law is consistently funny, ending on just the right note for a sequel.

This review originally ran in the June 28, 2011 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!

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