cover image The Jury Master

The Jury Master

Robert Dugoni, . . Warner, $24.95 (438pp) ISBN 978-0-446-57869-1

The most impressive thing about this gripping legal thriller is what it doesn't do. Dugoni, a lawyer who coauthored a nonfiction book about an Idaho worker brain-damaged in 1996 by cyanide fumes, opens his debut novel with a wrongful death attorney in San Francisco, David Sloane, about to make his closing remarks defending a corporation in a similar case. Sloane, who has won 14 cases in a row, hates his arrogant client and must face an obviously hostile jury. But instead of devoting many chapters to the case, Dugoni quickly moves into some unexpected and very interesting territory: a recurring childhood nightmare Sloane shares with former CIA agent Charles Jenkins, apparently a complete stranger. Meanwhile, unstoppable West Virginia police detective Tom Molia investigates the suicide of a top adviser to the president, and what he finds draws Sloane and Jenkins closer to the truth behind their shared terror: an international conspiracy 30 years in the making. All of Dugoni's characters have a fresh and believable edge, and there is plenty of action in far-flung settings. One looks forward to Sloane's return. (Mar.)