Book note: Actuaries assess adulterous assassin

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Liars Dice, from St. Paul publisher Syren Book Company, is some pretty fun stuff. From the pen of first-time novelist and veteran attorney Bob Gust—of the Minneapolis firm O’Brien & Gust, PLLC—it’s well-written in an easy flow, with life-like characters making their way through the fascinating circumstance of what has to be one of the oddest cases imaginable.

Twin Cities attorney Dick Donnelly is summoned up to Hibbing, retained to represent the estate of one Duke MacKenzie. The late Duke—or, at least, whoever inherited his money—is being taken to court because MacKenzie shot a burglar who broke into his home. What’s the big deal, right? A guy breaks into your crib, you pick up your pistol, send him to his eternal reward and that’s that. Well, not if you happen to have had said burglar’s wife in your bed at the time. That can make things a little sticky. You want real complications? Duke apparently was so distraught by the whole business that he committed suicide and there’s some question as to whether his estate shouldn’t, in fact, be compensated by the burglar’s insurance company—which, of course, is having none of that. In other words, Perry Mason this ain’t.

Liars Dice, a novel by Bob Gust. Published by Syren Book Company (2007). $12.95.


You heard the joke, “Why don’t sharks attack lawyers in the water? Professional courtesy.” Well, the beautiful thing about Gust’s having Dick Donnelly as his protagonist is that it demonstrates that legal eagles are people, too. While plying a taxing trade, they have personal ups and downs in life, make dumb mistakes in judgment, and even break up with their girlfriends, just like everybody else. For good measure, Donnelly isn’t even loaded, driving around in an obnoxiously expensive sports car and looking down his nose at “regular” folk. He’s a dedicated, hard-working guy who keeps his thinking cap on and simply does what he’s good at tries to make as decent a living as possible. He’s also got a smart-ass, pain-in-the-behind best friend without whom his life simply wouldn’t be the same. If you’ve ever had one of those – a friend you’ve love to strangle but would stand by to the bitter end, you’ll easily relate to Dick’s sidekick Sandy.

If you’re looking for a profound book, this is not it. There are no contemplations of the law’s relation to cosmic conscientiousness as it relates to the existential yin-yang of jurisprudence. There’s just an engaging, entertaining yarn that features some very interesting twists and turns. You’ll like it.

Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the Daily Planet.

Cover image ©2007 Syren Book Company