Perjury

Stan Latreille, Author
Stan Latreille, Author Crown Publishers $24 (352p) ISBN 978-0-609-60138-9
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
Mass Market Paperbound - 384 pages - 978-0-451-19687-3
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Possibly the best first novel by a sitting Michigan judge since Robert Traver's Anatomy of a Murder, Latreille's noir tale of a lawyer trying to defend a treacherous, needy client is an engrossing, contemporary throwback to its classic precursor. Burnt out from a failed marriage and 20 years as a Chicago public defender, narrator Jack Brenner comes back to Michigan to join a suburban Detroit law firm. Jack is required to handle the pro bono defense of Davey Alden, accused of perjury after claiming that her husband, Joel, sexually abused their four-year-old daughter. The case looks hopeless for Davey, who has admitted in court that she lied. Driven by curiosity and by a growing attraction to Davey, Jack soon grows convinced that Joel Alden is at least a potential abuser. The complex plot involves Davey's promiscuity, Jack's fascination with Davey, Joel's ex-wife and their daughter (a teenage suicide), a shady real estate deal, an old diary, nail-biting courtroom scenes and a post-trial bombshell. Central to all this is mercurial, manipulative Davey and her own slowly revealed history of childhood abuse, which Latreille depicts with effective restraint. All the characters are interesting (although Jack and Dr. Ann Mahoney, his septuagenarian, martini-drinking, tart-tongued Catholic neighbor, are the only sympathetic members of the cast). This compelling new voice, schooled in Chandler and Hammett, knows what draws us to courtroom drama: ""Character is what every trial is about. It is always relevant. That's why the law is so afraid of it."" By the time they reach the bittersweet ending, readers will agree. (July)
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