Felony Murder

Joseph T. Klempner, Author
Joseph T. Klempner, Author St. Martin's Press $23.95 (358p) ISBN 978-0-312-13494-5
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Despite its melodramatic, Perry Mason-like resolution, Klempner's first novel, a legal thriller set in New York City, is deeply satisfying. When the city's police commissioner dies of a massive heart attack during a mugging, the young and homeless perp, Joey Spadafino, is charged with felony murder because the death occurred during a robbery. Dedicated attorney Dean Abernathy is named Joey's public defender and hopes for a plea bargain. But Dean uncovers a number of anomalies in the case and, after some wonderful plot twists, comes across evidence of a widespread conspiracy that bears on the death. Meanwhile, Joey digs in, insisting on a trial and refusing ever more generous plea bargain offers. When Dean's new girlfriend is kidnapped by the conspirators, the lawyer attempts to rescue her in a climactic set piece in which he uses his rock climbing skills in an urban setting. Klempner's metropolis reeks with authentic New York flavor, from cameos by real-life personages to dead-on details of jails, courts and the streets. Dean is an appealingly earnest and honest hero; Joey, though neither nice nor bright, is a riveting figure; Klempner, a New York criminal defense attorney, is a writer to watch. (Sept.)
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