I love a good courtroom drama and Sheehan has written a great one in The Alligator Man. It begins in south Florida where Roy Johnson sits in his back yard gazing out at the water and enjoying his evening wine. In fact, he's getting drunk, just like he does every single night. Then he decides to go for a walk down the road. It is a straight shot through to the town of Gladestown with alligators in the swamp on both sides. As he walks, he sees headlights and, too late, realizes the car is aiming right at him. He is hit and goes flying into the swamp. Nothing is found of him except two pieces of fabric, one from his shirt and the other from his shorts, and later his wallet surfaces too.
It's a case of a criminal getting his due actually. No one is sad to hear he's gone. He had been the CEO of a large company with hundreds of employees. He had cleaned the money out of it, including the 401K savings and benefits of all those employees. Then he simply walked away with all that money while his employees lost everything. Some committed suicide.
Meanwhile in Miami, Kevin Wylie has been working for a highly successful, if crooked, attorney. But he made a mistake. When he got a call to provide money for one of the drug dealer clients, he refused. Now he's being tossed out on his ear and the boss has threatened him if he ever practices law in Miami again. As if that isn't enough, he gets a call from his father's wife that dad is dying. They haven't been in touch since his parents broke up when Wylie was a boy. Reeling from all this bad news at once, and fighting with his live-in girlfriend as a result, Wylie decides to face his past by going to the Florida panhandle town where his dad lives. He's going to get answers about his dad's disappearance or else.
There are some great characters in this book just waiting to make your acquaintance. Carlisle Buchanan is one. He's been a sort of assistant law officer in the Gladestown office where nothing ever happens. That suits him just fine since he'd rather be fishing or exploring the swamps anyway. Whenever he takes his boat or his airboat out, he stops to ask permission of the great blue heron who stands there. He has named the bird "Scotch" in honor of his late father. Carlisle is an encyclopedia of the swamps and invaluable to the investigation. His friend Rosie owns and operates the only restaurant in town.
All things come together when Tom Wylie's friend Billy is accused of murdering Roy Johnson and Kevin decides to take the case since his father's health is too bad to do it himself. In the course of solving the murder and the courtroom scenes, Kevin gets to know his father and step-mother, and he finally learns the truth about what happened between his parents. His father and step-mother are wonderful characters too, as is Billy, the accused, who worked at Roy Johnson's company, lost everything, and then a year later with no health insurance lost his wife too. It seems like a slam dunk, but facts can be deceiving.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, sailing through it like I've done with Grisham novels and other intriguing courtroom dramas. The ending surprised and delighted me.
Source: Publisher Hachette Book Group