No Defense

Rangeley Wallace, Author, Wallace Rangeley, Author St. Martin's Press $21.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-13571-3
If young mother LuAnn Hagerdon Garrett hadn't come home to Tallagumsa, Ala., in April 1978 to attend the dedication of the new courthouse (named in honor of her daddy, Newell Hagerdon, the town mayor), she never would have met Washington Star reporter Ben Gainey. And, as we learn in this generally compelling first novel by a former attorney, if she hadn't told Ben about the racial killings back in 1963, her father never would have been put on trial for murder--and just after announcing his candidacy for governor, no less. On the day of the dedication, Newell surprises LuAnn with the deed to the local steakhouse. Over the protests of her prideful husband, Eddie, LuAnn, pregnant with twins, insists that they move back to Tallagumsa. In time, Eddie takes a job at the local college and LuAnn takes up with Gainey, who has remained in town to write a book about the New South. Then Gainey gets his hands on FBI memos about the murders of two young men slated to be the first black students at an Alabama college, who were purportedly gunned down by then-Sheriff Newell Hagerdon. But because the only witness to the killings was the town drunk, the Bureau had backed off. Now Gainey has revived the case and Newell is on trial. Despite the long buildup, the courtroom scenes, even with Hagerdon family secrets finally revealed, are a disappointment. But LuAnn's belated understanding of her father's selfishly manipulative behavior and her ensuing insights once she finally achieves maturity are cogently explained. In fact, the care Wallace takes with LuAnn's characterization enhances this well-paced legal thriller, as do flavorful Southern voices and a bracing dose of romance. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/30/1995
Release date: 11/01/1995
Mass Market Paperbound - 272 pages - 978-0-312-96169-5
Ebook - 272 pages - 978-1-4299-8207-8
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