Deadlock

Malcolm MacPherson, Author Simon & Schuster $23 (336p) ISBN 978-0-684-83157-2
Blending most of the familiar ingredients and following the standard recipe, journalist MacPherson (Time Bomb; In Cahoots) cooks up a predictable legal thriller set largely in San Francisco's Chinatown (and containing obvious echoes of the film of that name). When a Chinese immigrant is accused of murdering the granddaughter of Senator Stanton Hawkes, a powerful billionaire industrialist with mysterious ties to Chinatown and the Far East, a guilty verdict seems inevitable. Then Judge Daniel Barr receives an anonymous note suggesting that the real killer may actually be a member of the jury. Naturally, the police dismiss the note as a hoax, so Barr jeopardizes family, friends and career to conduct his own inquiry. Enlisting the aid of his buddy Wally Howard, a private investigator who is a former member of the SFPD and a Vietnam veteran, Barr delves into the twin enigmas of Chinatown and Senator Hawkes. MacPherson has written a journalist's novel, substituting thorough legal research, a guided tour of the Bay area and often blatantly conservative editorializing for character development and logical plotting. (He never quite manages to explain, for instance, why a prosecutor would knowingly risk having the murderer as a juror.) That MacPherson refrains from calling the Chinese ""inscrutable"" in his caricature of Chinatown and its inhabitants may be the lone surprise in this disappointing tale. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/02/1998
Release date: 02/01/1998
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