Kirkus Reviews "Cutter’s debut legal thriller tells the story of a litigator in Mackinac Island, Michigan, who defends a man accused of murder. Attorney Burr Lafayette is called to a bar called The Pink Pony by police chief Art Brandstatter, who suspects that Burr stole a pink hobbyhorse that normally hangs above the bar’s door. But inside the bar is the scene of a far more serious crime: Jimmy Lyons lies dead by strangulation. Burr is initially reluctant to help accused murderer Murdoch Halverson, but he ultimately relents, as he needs the money; after all, he owns a building in which the elevator doesn’t even work. The case against Halverson is strong, due in part to a reputed affair between Jimmy and Halverson’s wife, Anne. But Burr is determined to exonerate his client, even if it means that he has to start his own investigation and find the killer himself. The novel spotlights a lawyer who isn’t the most likable guy: he’s cynical in nearly any situation and tends to leer at women (although he does at one point reflect on his own “shallowness”). Cutter adds a few details to give him a modicum of sympathy, such as his faithful Lab, Zeke, who has more personality than Burr’s rarely seen 9-year-old son, also named Zeke, who’s a child of divorce. However, Burr shines at trial. His snide, often mumbled commentary becomes fitting when he’s facing a judge who clearly doesn’t like him and who’s more interested in wrapping things up quickly. The story’s legal banter is snappy, vibrant, and not without humor; one of the prosecutor’s objections against Burr, for example, is that “Counsel is flirting with the witness.” Burr’s investigation does eventually get a breakthrough, and there’s an effective plot twist near the end. His rapid-fire questioning of defendants on the stand, though, is nothing short of exhilarating. A mystery with a protagonist who’s truly in his element inside the courtroom." - Kirkus Reviews Murder on Mackinac
New mystery novel is set on Michigan’s most famous island "Mackinac Island, with its storied history, bikes-and-horses-only attitude, tons of fudge and a bevy of quaint cottages, has always been considered one of Michigan’s top family vacation destinations. East Lansing lawyer Charles McLravy, who writes under the pseudonym Charles Cutter, also saw it as the perfect setting for his new murder mystery, “The Pink Pony.” Although Mackinac Island is family friendly, one weekend a year in mid-July, at the end of the Bayview Yacht Club’s historic Port Huron to Mackinac Island sailboat race, it becomes the site off a raucous, devil-maycare celebration as thousands of thirsty racers and race fans descend on the finish line. Win or lose, they make for “The Pink Pony” — arguably the island’s most famous bar — for post-race revelry. The “The Pink Pony,” so designated because of the pink, carousel-style horse which hangs outside, is the backdrop for the opening scenes in Cutter’s newest mystery featuring fictional East Lansing attorney Burr Lafayette. Following a night of post-race martini guzzling, a hungover Lafayette is escorted to “The Pink Pony” by the island’s police chief, who is interested in finding and returning the purloined pink pony sign. Lafayette is his chief suspect. All that takes a back seat when they stumble upon a dead body, clearly strangled by the Christmas tree lights strung around his neck, in a scene littered with women’s underwear. Lafayette is soon drafted into representing the accused murderer and finds himself balancing island politics, long-held personal disputes and his own demons while trying to find the real murderer. McLravy is no stranger to the “great race” having crewed on sailboats in the race numerous times during the 1980s. Sailboat fans will love his descriptions of the boats and his insider’s guide to boating nomenclature. “The racers always end up in bars, and since there is no drinking during the race everybody’s thirsty,” McLravy said. “There is a lot of carrying on and bad behavior.” "The Pink Pony, he said, is a natural location for partying since it is the closest bar to where the boats dock at the end of the race. For most of the year it is a quiet bar off the lobby of the Chippewa Hotel, which has been an anchor on the island’s waterfront for more than 100 years. It’s spectacular to see the boats take off from Port Huron, McLravy said. More than 250 boats are expected for this year’s race. Although the race was much simpler in the days before cell phones and GPS, McLravy still describes it as “man against nature.” McLravy’s parents were big boaters and kept a 34-foot sailboat in Holland. He still recalls the summer they sailed to Mackinac Island. “I was young at the time and couldn’t ride a bicycle, so we took a bicycle built for two,” he said. “I was enamored with the place.” Though he was careful to not use actual islanders, McLravy did take literary license in using the name of three friends in the book. Art Brandstatter, a long-time East Lansing resident, is the namesake of the overwhelmed island police chief. “However, there are no sacred cows in the book,” said McLravy. “Everyone gets skewered, but I was not mean spirited.” McLravy said the characters in this story came easily to him, and that they are “eccentric and colorful.” It was important to make the plot tie up in a believable way, he said, and to keep the mood consistent with the right balance of suspense and humor. As a lawyer, McLravy was able to make the court scenes both believable and dramatic. This year’s Bayview Mackinac Race is the 91st running of the historic race. The boats leave Port Huron on July 18 and will arrive at the island between July 19 and July 21. This year more than 250 boats are expected to cross the finish line. McLravy has several Northern Michigan events planned to celebrate the book’s release, including an official release party at the Pink Pony on Friday. For a full list of events, check the author’s website at: Mackinac Island enthusiasts will delight as some of the island’s long held customs and traditions are skewered in the book. And if you are asking if there has ever been a homicide on the island, the answer is yes. In July 1960, Frances Lacey, a wealthy widow from Dearborn, was murdered and her body was discovered five days later, buried near Devil’s Kitchen on property owned by the social activist group Moral Re-Armament. The murder has never been solved." Now to the mystery of why McLravy uses a nom de plume. “No one could say it or spell (my name), and that caused confusion,” the author said. But not everyone is happy with the name change. “My mother doesn’t like it,” he said." - Bill Castanier, Lansing City Pulse

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