It’s that hated introductory line: Long time reader, first time poster. Seemed like I should say something, and also introduce myself as “that person with a dog breed joke as a username who mostly only reads mysteries, medical thrillers and work-related nonfiction, binges one author at a time a lot, and refuses to give a book under 3 stars.” (Only partially true; I won’t review anything that was sub-3 star quality unless it was so bad it becomes doubly worth it, because I’m super overworked and just don’t have enough time.)
Anyway! Enough about me, onto the book. An Invisible Client was an unexpectedly fun book, despite being more seriousness and fewer laughs than I normally like in what I read — since yes, even medical thrillers often have their funny moments. This is not a medical thriller, it’s a legal thriller, and it has a very impressive voice. The use of first person initially surprised me, because that’s rare in the genre, but the more I read of Noah Byron the more I loved him.
It’s the story of Joel Whiting vs. Pharma-K, a boy who was poisoned by “product tampering” whose mother gets tipped off by a member of the company: it wasn’t really product tampering, and the ‘Pharma Killer’ was created by the company and leaked to the press. Conveniently, that person is then fired and disappears off the face of the earth. Enter Noah Byron, who would never take “invisible” cases like this but for the fact that Joel’s mother, Rebecca, is his ex-wife’s cousin, and he’s still pretty close to his ex-wife.
Byron – who chose his own last name after Lord Byron, changing it at 18 to escape an abusive family – is open and honest about his entire life being about money and having the nicest things in life, which becomes logical as you learn more about his background. Everything that is despicable about him is something that he owns, full well knowing most people would see it that way. Noah Byron knows personal injury lawyers are supposed to be scum. But to the reader, no one at Byron, Val & Keller seem like scum. They’re all quite a cast of characters, with personalities that stand out and shine off the page and nicknames like ‘KGB’ and ‘the Commandant’. Not everyone gets development, but everyone who speaks more than twice is memorable, and Byron almost does a full heel-face turn of development from scum to humanitarian in a way that … isn’t absurd? That kind of total personality change in the course of one book usually feels over the top to me, but this seemed completely natural.
The flow of the story is as well, and the romance that develops is nowhere near as clear cut as I expected either (as true to trope, Byron would have to end up with Whiting. Spoiler: he doesn’t). While Byron’s associates at points think he’s crazy and try to stop the tailspin of money losing he’s on championing boy with no earning capacity versus pharmaceutical company (whose attorney is a man wearing an eyepatch that everyone calls Pirate Bob behind his back), there’s none of that distressing, anxiety-inducing “the entire world is against the main character and his life is over but he’s still pursuing the truth” tension that often gets me with thrillers. In good thrillers, it puts my heart in a vice; in bad ones, it has me turning pages faster; in this one, I was pleased to see that the partners stuck together no matter what their individual opinions were.
If you like thrillers, if you like courtroom drama, if you like nuanced stories about people who have experienced horrible childhoods coming together and developing as people as side plots, you will probably like An Invisible Client. There are some horribly heartrending scenes that brought a tear as well as a couple of grin-inducing triumphs, but I had essentially nothing to quibble about (except a made-up psychiatric medication, and that’s an understandable author choice and only a one-line mention) and the way the case unfolds — and concludes! — as well as the scientific and legal details are grounded firmly in realism.