Nicky ‘Nick’ Rigopoulos finds himself a dark horse in a race to solve a frame up—his own.
Nick’s day starts off well enough. He’s in a courtroom handling a personal injury case. “None of his cases went to trial anymore. That was the way he liked it—no risk. Just put your John Hancock right there and we’ll withdraw the complaint. But he missed something, being on his feet in court, having a pit in his stomach. It made him feel young again.”
He settles the case favorably, but the plaintiff’s son doesn’t think so. The son’s on parole because he busted a guy’s nose over fifty cents. “You wanna know what I do to a guy who steals five grand from me?”
But Nick’s got other problems. He’s campaigning for state court judge and seems far too willing to settle a few personal injury cases. And that rankles his law partner Lottie Magnarella, who also happens to be his campaign manager and a former flame. This in turn leads to some very public altercations.
By six o’clock, Nick’s on the campaign trail trying to gain support from a bunch of frat house jocks. Then there is a convenient gap of time in the narrative.
It’s just after midnight when Nick arrives home and finds his estranged wife, Scarlet, waiting up for him. She knows he’s been with another woman. He tries to convince her to stay in the marriage until after the election. Their conversation is cut short when breaking news on the television announces the latest homicide at a familiar scene.
Nick scrambles over to Lottie’s house and meets a sea of reporters and police who think him the likeliest suspect. The time of death is set between 7:45 and 8:15 pm. Nick’s got an airtight alibi, but she isn’t willing to confirm it.
When Nick’s wife is the next on the killer’s list, Nick determines to go undercover to stay out of prison and catch a killer. He also warns his twentysomething daughter, “Someone’s killing the women in my life.” The question is why?
Can a slick personal injury lawyer be likeable? In fiction, yes.
Despite being an unabashed slick personal injury attorney, readers might not be able to help themselves from rooting for Nick. This lawyer knows the system, uses it to stay one step ahead of the police, and takes up a variety of disguises from a Hell’s Angel to a suburban cowboy to a crazed football fan in order to track down a killer.
Syracusans and Central New Yorkers will get a kick out of local references. We get scenes at Turning Stone casino and the Carrier Dome, among others. The colorful characters, too, fit right in to the setting.
Dark Horse, though described as a legal thriller, is a fast-paced action thriller/murder mystery. The story will hold your interest, though there are a few drawbacks. It would have made more sense for the aforementioned conversation between Nick and his wife to occur as the eleven o’clock news begins rather than after midnight. And some transitions between scenes—often occurring around chapter breaks—seem abrupt and take a moment to adjust to. But these are somewhat minor points that don’t detract from snappy dialogue and an engaging story. The legal and political scenes and conversations are particularly compelling and well-written.
Author Langan is a former litigator in Syracuse and Washington, D. C. Dark Horse is his first novel, published in 2008. His second book, Ready for the Defense, is described as a political thriller set in Washington, D. C. and was released in 2009. For more about Langan and his books, click here.