cover image Presumed Guilty

Presumed Guilty

Junius Podrug / Author Forge $24.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-312-8624

Trial lawyer Podrug's disappointing follow-up to Frost of Heaven pits a young American attorney against Russia's severe system of justice. Lara Patrick, a prosecutor with the San Francisco DA's office, senses that an unidentified photo of a mutilated corpse sent to her from Moscow is a lure to get her to investigate the brutal murder of her mother, an idealistic Berkeley political science professor expatriated to Moscow in the 1960s. Yet Lara, who was abducted from her Russian school and abused by a disguised figure around the time of her mother's murder, flies to Russia to try to locate her mother's secret KGB file. Out of her element and surrounded by danger, Lara is saved from Moscow thugs by Alexei Bova, a rich and connected bad boy who takes her to parties, angering his public flame, TV news anchor Nadia Kolchat. Lara forges ahead, followed everywhere by handsome policeman Yuri Kirov. A photo of her mother with Alexei induces Lara to enlist Nadia's help to uncover the mystery surrounding Alexei, but she soon is framed for murder when she finds Nadia's body in Alexei's palace. Nina Kirensky, Lara's Afro-Russian court-appointed lawyer, begins to detect a pattern between Lara's mother's death and recent murders, but she ""disappears"" the day before trial. The outcome is melodramatically predictable and smothers what might have been an interesting rumination on the difference between two systems of justice. (Sept.)