cover image Outlaws


George V. Higgins. Henry Holt & Company, $0 (359pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-0271-3

The author of The Friends of Eddie Coyle and Imposters brings his considerable storytelling skills and his customary perfect ear for dialogue to this complex novel of right and wrong, principle and pragmatism in the daily practice of modern American law and politics. In 1978, detective Lt. John Richards and Assistant Attorney General Terrence Gleason get a grand jury indictment against four radical activists from the '60s, for robbery and multiple murder in a Boston bar. Included is James Walker, the son of a New York society matron, an ardent supporter of a young people's amateur orchestra, whose tours have provided cover for American intelligence activities since WW II. The trial, beating at the heart of Higgins's story, results in convictions for all except Sam Tibbetts, the ringleader, who gets off on temporary insanity. Seven years later, after Tibbetts has been let out of his state institution, Walker's sister contacts Gleason, who had been her lover for a while after the trial and is now a criminal lawyer in private practice, to act on getting her brother released. The narrative ranges from the '40s to the '80s, revealing connections in the lives of his large cast of characters and setting up the older generation's movements, supposedly within the system, against the younger's, supposedly outside it. While deftly arranging right against left, ends against means, and illuminating the play of private passion in public practice, above all he tells a powerful, page-turner of a story. (September 14)