Prime Witness

Steve Martini, Author
Steve Martini, Author Putnam $21.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-399-13802-7
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``The ugly marketplace of justice''--as one character terms the judicial process--is scrutinized with a riveting, you-are-there immediacy in the new legal procedural by the author of Compelling Evidence. When attorney Paul Madriani offers to assist a friend--the county's ailing district attorney, who subsequently dies--in investigating six brutal killings, he becomes entangled in a series of machinations that threaten his career and even his private life. Though Martini's plotting proves ingenious (the story is capped off by a nail-biting encounter in a darkened courtroom), the legal maneuvers themselves take center stage here. From the crime scene--the banks of California's Putah Creek--to a deceptively simple arrest to fascinating pre-trial scheming, Martini packs his novel with the quotidian details of the wheels of justice--and the numerous cogs therein. Madriani's first-person, present-tense narration invigorates the often intricate proceedings with first-rate wisecracks and one-liners. His character descriptions are by turns pithy and funny (frequently both): the prosecuting attorney ``looks like nothing so much as Robert Duvall's incarnation of the Great Santini''; the county's female victim-witness coordinator is ``the crime victim's answer to Don Corleone in drag . . . known as `Attila the Hen.' '' Prime is indeed the word for this involving read. (July)
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