Too many coincidences


The Last Innocent Man was first published by bestselling author Phillip Margolin in 1981, but that’s not the problem.  Mystery/thrillers about criminal defense lawyers age well and there has been no change in either the law or the ethical dilemmas of prosecutors, defenders, and police.  But even a pro like Margolin can fall into the trap of creating too many coincidences for a satisfying plot.  I think that in this book he got lazy.

How’s this for an unbelievable plot twist:  Brilliant Portland defense attorney David Nash is hired to defend a fellow lawyer (whose wife he has fallen in love with) on a murder charge.  Husband and wife swear that they were at home together on the night of the crime and Nash assumes that they’re telling the truth until he’s accidentally reminded of the date of the crime – it’s the day he first met the wife at a big party given by a member of his firm, and she was definitely not at home with her husband!   For months brilliant attorney Nash has somehow not noticed that the date of the important party and the date of the important crime are the same, and his memory wasn’t even jogged by the fact that it was the same day on which he met the love of his life.  Phooy!

This elephant in the room left me with no patience for the statistically surprising coincidence that the suspect was similar in size and build to the actual killer, owned a patterned shirt identical to that worn by the killer and similar trousers, drove a car of the same make and color as the killers car, and had curly blond hair just like the wig the killer chose as a disguise.  A final complaint – no ingenious detective work or clever deduction was required to find the real killer – he turns out to be a psychopath who doesn’t mind confessing to his crimes.