cover image Dead Even

Dead Even

Brad Meltzer, Pico Iyer. Rob Weisbach Books, $25 (401pp) ISBN 978-0-688-15090-7

Just when you thought there were no more changes to be rung on the legal thriller, Meltzer follows up his bestselling inside look at the Supreme Court (The Tenth Justice) with this sleek, suspenseful, only slightly unbelievable story about two young New York lawyers in love and in danger. Sara Tate and Jared Lynch are married to each other and to their legal careers: he's a rising star for the defense in a big firm; she's just starting as an assistant district attorney after six months of job seeking. On her first day, Sara hears that a budget cut could put her back on the unemployment lines, so she swipes a burglary case earmarked for a top man in the pecking order. But this is more than a routine burglary, and a powerful villain named Oscar Rafferty wants it to go away. He hires Jared to defend the accused, a sadistic monster called Tony Kozlow, telling him that unless Kozlow walks, Sara dies. While Jared grapples with the moral issues involved--and avoids telling Sara about the threat for hundreds of pages--another nasty type (whose fingerprints match several dead criminals) pushes Sara's grandfather down a flight of subway stairs and says he'll do worse to Jared unless Kozlow is convicted. Fearing for each other's safety, their marriage cracking under the strain, Sara and Jared joust in front of a grand jury and then get ready for trial, with Sara helped over some serious speed bumps by a nicely sketched young assistant and a tough prosecutor with a romantic interest. Several murders and a subway shoot-out eventually resolve this somewhat overlong but definitely compelling tale of legal and extralegal adventure. Author tour. (May)