Note: The novel will go on sale this fall.
Author JD Trafford grew up in St. Louis before earning a law degree. It’s no surprise, then, that he sets his legal thriller “Merchants Bridge” in St. Louis, with a lawyer in the lead role.
The lawyer, Graydon “Gray” Wendt, returns to his car on a cold night after having dinner with a client and a colleague. Suddenly, the attackers jump the two. Wendt is manhandled, while his colleague takes fatal shots.
But Wendt soon finds himself in trouble. Prosecutors suspect Wendt himself of masterminding the attack, all to prevent the colleague from linking Wendt to a complicated corruption scheme involving their law firm.
The plot, like the corruption system, is full of complications. But two women – one a litigator, the other a law enforcement officer – join forces with Wendt.
Local readers will relish the local color. For example, Trafford notes, “There was a divide between those in Missouri, pronouncing it with a hard ‘e’, and those who lived in Missouri, and pronouncing it, Missour-ah.”
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As the commas and their placement in this quote show, “Merchants Bridge” suffers from sloppy editing. Prose purists will sigh for gaffe after gaffe – “Creve Ceour” for “Creve Coeur”, “podium” for “pupitre”, etc.
Certainly, Trafford gives readers some insights into the legal profession, few of which are worthy of praise. An example:
“When he went to law school, Gray thought he would get a job in legal aid and represent the poor. That’s what most law students thought on day one. Then their eyes were quickly opened to the caste system within the legal profession as well as an awareness of their ever-increasing student loan debt.
The title page of the book calls “Merchants Bridge” the first in a series. Before lawyer-author Trafford begins Volume II, he might find a copy editor who knows that “plaided” outclasses “plaided” as good English.
Manchester’s Harry Levins retired in 2007 as the Post-Dispatch’s senior editor.