... not merely a good legal thriller; it’s a great one ... At each turn, Clark writes with compassion not only about those exploited by callous institutions, but even about the paper pushers who do the bidding ... For readers who don’t get chills from Cobra claims, competing case precedents and the distinction between void and voidable court orders, Clark’s attention to legal detail may prove a tad too careful. But lurking among the technicalities are the tools that savvy Kevin might use to save himself — and the clues that Clark cleverly weaves together for a truly thrilling ending. Maybe some lawyers are unpredictable after all.
... remarkably lighthearted, in no small part because Clark has created likable and adaptable protagonists in Kevin and his sidekick Nelson, the mongrel rescue dog. How they turn a doomed situation around is ingenious and unexpected. At times, the amount of criminal law that the reader is expected to absorb is daunting, but it doesn’t slow the pace too much. And as it reinforces the sense that we’re in the very capable hands of an experienced legal mind (Clark is a retired judge), it makes the denouement even more realistic and therefore satisfying.
Clark’s strength in this novel lies in his characters ... Clark’s shortcomings in the novel lie in the exposition of his plot. As the charges against Kevin continue to mount, the threads begin to tangle in the reader’s mind ... Clark and his protagonist may be comfortable in this world but most of us are not. The legal subtleties elude us, and Clark declines to spell them out ... While Clark’s intentions in this regard obviously were to generate suspense, the actual result irritates and frustrates. When a hero embarks on a quest to redeem himself, no matter how harrowing and fraught with difficulty the process might be, readers tend to want to travel along the road with him, suffering the defeats and savoring the little victories along the way as though this were a joint venture and not a secretive, elaborate plot from which we’re excluded until the big 'reveal' at the end ... a good legal thriller with enjoyable characters and a dilly of a situation faced by the main character. A better exposition of the plot, however, would have resulted in a much more effective story.
Clark’s trademark witty prose and mind-bending legal plotting get a welcome workout in this engaging thriller in which blackmail, financial derring-do, technical wizardry, a canny bit of pet training, and a bucolic rural Virginia setting converge in a pleasurably heady mixture.
... outstanding, a story rich with atmosphere, memorable characters ... intriguing plot twists and surprises ... More than Clark’s earlier books, The Substitution Order is ingeniously plotted, with Kevin’s legal — and sometimes not so legal — machinations offering up surprises right to the end ... [Clark] knows the law, how it can be used and misused, and a great deal about the foibles of human nature.
The author of four other clever, amusing legal novels, Clark is not nearly as well known as he should be. A retired Virginia circuit court judge, he knows his way around the system, using the law as a foundation for novels that never rely too heavily on action or courtroom pyrotechnics. Instead, he explores the rural South and the people who live there. He writes with hilarious insight about subjects that include but are not limited to the legal and medical professions, trucks with 'Southern by birth, Rebel by the Grace of God' bumper stickers, and the impossibility of the presumption of innocence for anyone who has ever been arrested ... After a mistake, revenge is deeply satisfying—and so is this book.