Bearing Witness

Michael Kahn, Author
Michael Kahn, Author Forge $23.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-312-84883-5
Paperback - 978-0-525-94305-1
Mass Market Paperbound - 336 pages - 978-0-8125-7983-3
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Kahn's latest legal thriller sets his series protagonist (and narrator) against a Goliath law firm and a crew of ex- and neo-Nazis in an intricate St. Louis civil suit. A secretary's age-discrimination case against litigious Beckman Engineering leads Rachel Gold to discover a multimillion-dollar bid-rigging conspiracy, which becomes the basis for a new and far more consequential suit. Beckman's no-goodnik law firm Roth & Bowles retaliate with volleys of counterclaims, metric tons of irrelevant evidence and an array of tactical harassment. Other parties strike back violently--an angry ex-wife with all the dirt on Beckman is gunned down before Rachel's eyes. Rachel's lawyer boyfriend, Jonathan Wolf, investigates Missouri's neo-Nazis for the state attorney general; he ties the gunmen to a skinhead group called the Spider. When Rachel, her law professor pal Benny and his students plow through boxes of Beckman info, they discover a six-firm cabal dating back to the 1940s, when an undercover Jewish activist kept tabs on St. Louis's powerful anti-Semites. Could the cabal be linked to the Spider as well? Though much of the plot involves library research, Kahn (a St. Louis lawyer himself) renders it all exciting; what could be bookish tedium becomes a treasure hunt over perilous ground and a chance to look at some of the stranger, darker parts of real Midwestern history. Kahn (Death Benefits; Grave Designs) makes civil law seem almost glamorous. Rachel must confront huge corporations, take on a hostile judge who favors the well-heeled, outmaneuver violent white supremacists and meanwhile try to maintain a love life. Rachel and Jonathan's differing brands of Judaism flesh out both their characters--and give their romance some comedy, since Jonathan's Orthodox beliefs forbid premarital sex. Though neither his prose nor his people transcend their genre, Kahn's likable characters and well-managed plots make this entertaining read a solid addition to its series. (Sept.)
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