Mark Stern, Author Carroll & Graf Publishers $19.95 (215p) ISBN 978-0-7867-0057-8
Stern's engrossing debut distinguishes itself from the spate of legal and courtroom thrillers through solid writing and a somewhat unusual slant. When Louisiana Senator Cicero Deauville is charged with the rape of a congressional aide, he hires a prominent D.C. firm to defend him. It becomes the job of the defense team, headed by Peter Fallon and Felix Wolfson, to ensure that some evidence the prosecution wants to use--evidence that would certainly convict Deauville--is ruled inadmissible. When Wolfson is discovered dead of a heart attack after the trial concludes, Fallon puts aside his suspicions; when another of the firm's lawyers dies, however, Fallon and his assistant Sarah Strasser try to find out why. Throughout the search, Stern adroitly juggles a number of motives for murder, raises questions of legal ethics and springs a few surprises. Only the novel's climax disappoints; while it effectively ties up loose ends, the presentation proves something of a letdown. Still, by concentrating more on backroom politics than on courtroom theatrics, Stern creates a believable world of lawyers and their labors and also makes his work a refreshing departure from the emerging subgenre of trial testimony-based legal thrillers. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
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