Cookie’s Case, the second of Andy Siegel’s Tug Wyler mystery series, is a truly enjoyable read filled with quirky characters and oddball situations. While it may lack something in the way of blood and guts, it makes up for it with an engaging, ironic self-effacing narrator in the voice of personal injury and medical malpractice lawyer, Tug Wyler. Although he knows his business and is very good at what he does, he is not beyond error and misjudgment. And always he is ready with his catch phrase when the chickens come home to roost: “At least I admit it.”
Cookie is an exotic dancer who accidently slipped and fell while working with a banana and suffered some botched surgery to correct an injury from the fall. Tug becomes involved in the case when while meeting professional friends at a strip club (perhaps a further indication of Tug’s character), he sees her return to dancing while harnessed to one of those halos used to immobilize broken neck patients. He discovers that she is working with a novice lawyer and seems to be heading for a low ball settlement. He and his friends convince her and her boyfriend, an elderly doctor himself, to fire her current lawyer and let Wyler handle the case.
But Cookie’s case is not the only thing—personal and professional—on Tug’s plate. He is facing a disciplinary hearing over another case in which he is accused of suborning perjury. He is being hounded by a mentally challenged bill collector, who it turns out has an injury case of his own that has been mishandled. He is warned against taking Cookie’s case by a tough talking mystery man. Two of his kids are insisting on changing their names, after his young daughter misinterprets some advice he’s given her about independence, and his wife is up in arms so more often than not he seems to spend his nights sleeping on the couch.
The plot has some twists and turns, and there is a lot of explanation what seems to be legitimate personal injury law, medical conditions, and practical legal tactics which give the narrative an authoritative sense of reality, not surprising since Siegel, himself is a personal injury and medical malpractice attorney practicing in New York.
Still, it is in the collection of eccentric characters, many of whom promise to be series regulars that the real joy of the novel lies. There is Tug’s overbearing wife who throws him out of bed because of his breathing, the impossibly named Tyler Wyler. There is sweet seven year old daughter with a mind of her own. There is his cancer stricken mother who insists on smoking while bad mouthing his wife.
Professionally, he has a paralegal who treats him like an annoyance, a Russian sex bomb who serves as his investigator, a medical consultant who insists upon holding meetings in strip joints, a referring attorney who handles dodgy clients, and a radiology expert with a house filled with cats. Then, of course there is Cookie, herself, a variation on the stereotype of the stripper with the heart of gold. Add the mentally challenged debt collector and his protective grandmother, a Chinese fortune teller, a surly bouncer, and an assortment of opposing attorneys and medical personnel and you’ve got plenty to keep you happily reading.
Tug Wyler, surrounded by his idiosyncratic brood, is a character who can carry a series, and if Cookie’s Case is any indication of future performance, count me in.