CHILLING EFFECT: A Lucinda Hayes Mystery
Law professor Wesson's disturbing third Lucinda Hayes mystery (after 2000's A Suggestion of Death ) questions the limits of First Amendment protection. Leonard Fitzgerald, who murdered a young girl after continuously watching a child-porn snuff film, has been found criminally insane. The victim's mother wants to sue the film's producers, forcing them to take responsibility for creating a product that led to murder. After consulting with Tory Meadows, her partner, and Brianna Bainbridge, a feminist law professor at the University of Colorado (Boulder), liberal attorney Hayes agrees to take the case. Instead of challenging the ban on censorship, Hayes files a civil suit seeking "compensation for a loss." She must prove that viewing the movie caused the murder and that the producers should have foreseen it. The novel's intriguing first half follows Hayes and her staff into the subterranean world of the pornographic film industry. Wesson skillfully explains the legal arguments, though she could have condensed the verbatim interviews and reports. After a careful build-up to the trial, the fireworks explode with predictable results and the denouement gets short shrift. Readers who like their legal thrillers with a heavy polemical slant will be the most satisfied. (Sept. 17)
Forecast: Because of the First Amendment issues, especially in today's charged political climate, this novel could generate controversy and extra sales—with savvy marketing.