The Bottom Line: A razor-sharp, rollicking legal thriller that deftly transforms the college admissions scandal into a hugely entertaining crime story.
As Cheater’s Game opens, 20-year-old Kip Lassiter races his Tesla X through the Florida Everglades with twenty-five thousand dollars in cash hidden under the back seat. Soon, a Maserati pulls up alongside him, and two masked goons threaten Kip by name before forcing the Tesla into a canal.
When Kip wakes in the hospital, his uncle, legendary defense attorney Jake Lassiter, is there to question him. How did he wreck? How could he afford such an expensive car? And why has Kip, whose probation terms should have prevented him from leaving the country, been to the Cayman Islands five times in recent weeks?
Kip brushes off his uncle’s questions, but it’s only a matter of time before he’s charged with selling admissions slots at the nation’s most prestigious universities to the parents of rich kids.
When Jake decides to come to his nephew’s defense, he puts himself at the epicenter of a nationwide scandal. He also finds himself squarely in the crosshairs of some very powerful people. But as Jake says, “If there’s blood on the courtroom floor, let it be mine.”
Author Paul Levine, whose novel Solomon vs Lord (Volume 1) was named one of the Best Legal Thrillers of the 21st Century, is again firing on all cylinders. The book’s success has everything to do with the richness with which Levine has drawn Jake. A veritable quote machine (a favorite: “A criminal trial is a contact sport. I buckle my chin strap and hit somebody”), Jake’s banter is equally addictive in the courtroom or at home with fiancée Melissa. His ongoing battle with C.T.E., as a result of his football career, adds unusual depth, making him among the most compelling protagonists in the legal thriller genre.
Characterization aside, Cheater’s Game stands out for its rapid-fire plot, where everything from the car chases to the courtroom scenes seem to move at high velocity.