cover image Rules of Evidence

Rules of Evidence

Jay Brandon. Pocket Books, $20 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-73174-8

Just as cops break the rules to fight crime in the streets, lawyers may disregard them completely in their search for truth in the courtroom--and feel pious about doing it. Raymond Boudro, the foremost black defense attorney in San Antonio, Tex., champions this dubious approach in Brandon's ( Fade the Heat ) fifth novel of legal suspense. When Detective Mike Stennett, a rough white undercover narc and reputed racist, is arrested for the fatal beating of a black junkie, Raymond takes on the high-profile case and upends many of his professional beliefs in his quest to make certain his client's innocence. Although the novel is suspenseful and savvy in its portrayal of subtle legal strategies in and out of the courtroom, its credibility sours when that subtlety is abandoned. For example, during the trial, to facilitate his search for the facts, Raymond discards the procedural rules, melodramatically offering prosecutor Becky Schirhart a free hand: ``There are no rules . . . . Only games have rules.'' Brandon develops an interesting contrast between Stennett, the unsavory but devoted cop, and Raymond, the skillful and competitive attorney; each considers himself rightful protector of the crime-ridden East Side where both grew up. But the plot hinges on Raymond's unconvincing transformation from wily professional to quixotic truth-seeker, so that the improbable ending cannot help but disappoint. (Mar.)