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The Substitution Order

Review

The Substitution Order

Martin Clark’s clever legal thriller opens with Kevin Moore, a once-high-flying lawyer who’s anticipating disbarment, making sandwiches in a low-budget deli, SUBstitution. On probation from a cocaine possession charge, his troubles only get worse when a mysterious man comes into the shop and tries to convince him to take part in a complicated multimillion-dollar scam built around Kevin’s own disbarment. It’s obvious that this is not a chance encounter, and days later Kevin learns that the proposition wasn’t actually an option, but a threat.

"THE SUBSTITUTION ORDER is remarkably lighthearted, in no small part because Clark has created likable and adaptable protagonists in Kevin and his sidekick Nelson, the mongrel rescue dog."

As he is quickly busted for drug possession that urine tests seem to corroborate, Kevin realizes that he’s being framed and no amount of legal maneuvering will free him. He calls upon his own experience as well as that of his lawyer friends and his coworker, a savvy young coder named Blaine, in an attempt to find a path out of this juridical maze.

Meanwhile, though in his early 40s and fit, Kevin suffers a stroke that requires medication and physical therapy he can barely afford. And his adored wife hands him divorce papers. Towards the end of the book, he sums up his situation philosophically: “I’ve lost the love of my life, almost stroked out, forfeited my livelihood and most of my money, embarrassed my profession and been reduced to running a bad sandwich shop. My immediate friends are a mongrel dog and a pot-dealing coworker half my age.”

Still, THE SUBSTITUTION ORDER is remarkably lighthearted, in no small part because Clark has created likable and adaptable protagonists in Kevin and his sidekick Nelson, the mongrel rescue dog. How they turn a doomed situation around is ingenious and unexpected. At times, the amount of criminal law that the reader is expected to absorb is daunting, but it doesn’t slow the pace too much. And as it reinforces the sense that we’re in the very capable hands of an experienced legal mind (Clark is a retired judge), it makes the denouement even more realistic and therefore satisfying.

Reviewed by Lorraine W. Shanley on July 19, 2019

The Substitution Order
by Martin Clark

  • Publication Date: July 9, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • ISBN-10: 0525656324
  • ISBN-13: 9780525656326