Prejudicial Error

Bill Blum, Author
Bill Blum, Author Dutton Books $21.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-525-93905-4
Mass Market Paperbound - 10 pages - 978-0-451-18309-5
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A down-on-his luck attorney prone to drink and self-pity gets a chance at redemption when he takes on a high-profile case that seems impossible to win. No, it's not The Verdict; it's California administrative law judge Blum's sharply written debut novel. His protagonist is John Philip Solomon, former chief trial deputy in the Los Angeles DA's office, who now is reduced to ``the kinds of cases first-year lawyers handle.'' It's not exactly a sterling opportunity when he is tapped to defend an accused cop killer. Prosecuting the case is the man who took Solomon's place, Howard Ainsworth, the odds-on favorite to be the next DA. The arresting officer is Mary Delgado, whose affair with Solomon four years ago cost him his job. It sounds contrived, but Blum handles this plot adroitly. In fact, the narrative carries the ring of authenticity, especially the courtroom scenes, in which every question leads to an unexpected answer. Moreover, Solomon's transformation from floundering loser to competent attorney is convincingly portrayed. Blum mixes an insider's knowledge of courtroom procedure and cutthroat politics with some fast pacing and no-frills storytelling: he fills in the histories of his main characters while the trial builds to an exciting finish, and then detonates a few key surprises at the end. Though the final scene is a little too much like a TV pilot, this is a well-constructed thriller from a writer to watch. (Apr.)
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