The Letter of the Law

Tim Green, Author Warner Books $24.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-446-52299-1
Former NFL star and current attorney Green takes his fiction (Double Reverse, etc.) in a new direction with this rough-but-ready read, offering not his first legal thriller but his first novel to be set apart from the gridiron and the pigskin. Green's plot--hotshot female attorney gets accused killer off the hook, then learns he did it and is menaced in turn--feels as dated and clapped-together as a jalopy, but it runs fast, powered by crude narrative energy and carrying within its rickety frame a host of comfortably familiar characters. When Casey Jordan defends her smarmy former law professor, Eric Lipton, against charges that he slay-mutilated law student Marcia Sales (Lipton was seen fleeing the crime scene), she attacks the case with the same ambition that has swept her from a dusty Texas farm to the pinnacle of Austin legal and fine society; Casey even insinuates in court that the victim's father, Donald, killed his daughter out of jealousy. But seconds before the jury foreman announces, ""Not Guilty,"" Lipton whispers to Casey that he did the deed. Is he joking? Apparently not, as evidence surfaces that he's a crazed serial killer. Character motivation isn't Green's forte: Casey is persuaded that Lipton is evil and that she should help the vengeful Sales p re (and the cops) track him down only after Sales kidnaps, binds and terrifies her to show her what his daughter went through. Casey's change of heart after such treatment defies credibility, as do the novel's over-the-top climax, which sounds loud echoes of Night of the Hunter, and the killer's persona, which is so cartoonish you expect his dialogue to appear in balloons. Other characters--particularly an aging cop and an over-the-hill FBI agent--are handled with more nuance. This novel wilts next to any Grisham or Baldacci, but for brisk airplane entertainment, it'll do fine. Agent, Esther Newberg. 150,000 first printing; major ad/promo; author tour; simultaneous Time Warner Audio. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
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