Flat Lake in Winter

Joseph T. Klempner, Author
Joseph T. Klempner, Author St. Martin's Press $24.95 (305p) ISBN 978-0-312-19883-1
Reviewed on: 01/04/1999
Release date: 01/01/1999
Mass Market Paperbound - 320 pages - 978-0-312-97068-0
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-88646-531-5
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A death-row lawyer weighs the risks of taking on a potentially indefensible case of a slow-witted man accused of murdering his grandparents in this absorbing, tough-minded thriller from New York attorney Klempner (Change of Course). Among law-enforcers in remote Flat Lake, N.Y., word is that the case against Jonathan Hamilton is ""an absolute lock"": a clear trail of blood, hair and footprints implicates the man-child in the stabbing deaths of his sleeping grandparents. With Jonathan's apparent confession, ""meateating"" DA Gil Cavanaugh announces he'll seek the death penalty, despite Jonathan's borderline retardation. So when former Legal Aid lawyer Matt Fielder inherits Jonathan's defense, he has his work cut out for him. The momentum shifts when Fielder, somewhat unconvincingly, becomes romantically involved with Jonathan's ""drop-dead gorgeous"" sister, who reveals Jonathan's long history of sleepwalking. Is it possible that Jonathan killed his grandparents in his sleep? If so, will a sleepwalking defense save him from death row? Klempner's delicate meditations on legal and moral responsibility, and his riveting depiction of capital case warfare, make this novel stand out from the pack of plot-driven legal thrillers. His low-key, folksy style is occasionally mannered, especially when he adopts the objective jargon of a police report or waxes poetic about the charms of Flat Lake. But readers will be moved by the plight of the bewildered defendant and challenged by the ""full-fledged psychodrama"" arising from possibly unconscious acts. Agent, Bob Diforio. (Jan.)
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