cover image Beyond Blame

Beyond Blame

Stephen Greenleaf. Villard Books, $15.95 (290pp) ISBN 978-0-394-54115-0

John Marshall Tanner recounts his latest grim experiences in Greenleaf's fifth novel about this California private eye. In Berkeley, Lawrence Usser is notorious for defending criminals as insane and therefore not guilty. When the lawyer is arrested for the vicious murder of his wife Dianne, her parents hire Tanner to prove the accused sane, to prevent him from escaping justice. Questioning people close to the Ussers, Tanner clashes with Lawrence's psychiatrist who has also treated the couple's young daughter Lisa, a runaway. The detective finds Lisa strung out on drugs and holed up with a gang playing weird games in Berkeley's sub-human corners. Before Tanner solves his knotty case, the plot grows to Byzantine dimensions, with elaborations that strain belief, in spite of its timely and vital subject and the author's superior literary skills. January 27