Every professional thrown in contact with the public has at least one client who’s, to put it charitably, challenging. But the husband-and-wife attorney team of Joe and Lisa Stone have managed, in “Petty Lettie” VanSandt, to have landed an international gold medal champion. Irascible, tattooed, litigious, paranoid, antisocial and capricious—and it goes downhill from there. Fortunately, Joe has a patient mien, which turns out to be both the source of affection and affliction in The Jezebel Remedy, the fourth novel from Virginia Circuit Court Judge Martin Clark.
As proven in his New York Times Notable debut, The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living, Clark has a practiced ear for the subtlety and nuance of everyday existence. While the lawyer couple clearly have affection for one another, Joe’s wife is getting twitchy after 20 years of “community center Zumba classes, flannel, mismatched silver, lukewarm champagne and box steps every December 31, matted fleece bedroom slippers and sex so mission control she could count down the seconds between her husband biting her neck and squeezing her breast.”
When the Stones’ cantankerous client turns up dead just days after amending her will for the umpteenth time, both Joe’s unflappable demeanor and Lisa’s near occasion of adultery set the stage for a series of events that could find them disbarred, bankrupted or worse. It appears that a seemingly useless formula for a compound called “Wound Velvet,” left among the deceased woman’s estate, has more value than her executor (Joe) could possibly have known, to the degree that a multinational corporation is willing to do whatever it takes to secure the patent . . . even if they have to crush the Stones to do it.
Unlike many legal thrillers, The Jezebel Remedy doesn’t turn on high-tension courtroom theatrics to make its impact, though it’s plenty clear from the legal proceedings documented in its pages that Clark knows his way around the bench. Instead, he crafts a portrait of fine but flawed humans who find themselves unexpectedly thrust into the deep end of a system where the law can be either a life raft or a dead weight, depending on who gets to make the final judgment call.