cover image True Justice

True Justice

Robert K. Tanenbaum. Atria Books, $24.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-7434-0589-8

A rash of baby killings positions a pair of married lawyers on opposite sides of the moral and legal fence in the latest multifaceted installment of this legal-thriller series (after Act of Revenge). Tanenbaum brings back assistant district attorney Butch Karp and feisty spouse Marlene Ciampi when three infanticides involving young unwed mothers are discovered in New York City. City politics and legal circumstances force Karp to prosecute a young Hispanic girl who appears to be the most culpable of the three. While Karp is embroiled in his case, lawyer Ciampi is busy with her own challenge--protecting battered women from violent ex-husbands. When she is forced to shoot a man after he guns down his wife and then aims the weapon at his own daughter, Ciampi realizes she has had enough and decides to retire. Shortly afterward, however, a lawyer friend convinces her to represent a young woman in Delaware who is accused of killing her newborn baby. Contrived though the plot may be, it provides an apt vehicle for Tanenbaum to dissect the legal and moral mechanisms of the two cases, while exploring their effects on his protagonists' professional and personal lives. An intriguing subplot involves the couple's deeply religious daughter, Lucy, a linguistic prodigy. When the parents of her wealthy friend Caitlin are killed in cold blood, Lucy's instincts help identify the murderer. The resolution of Ciampi's case seems a bit na ve and optimistic, but Tanenbaum rises above the inherent manipulation in the story lines with his usual combination of intelligent, wry dialogue, a well-designed maze of political and moral traps, and the charming and incendiary chemistry between Karp and Ciampi. For those who prefer their legal thrillers with plenty of spice and a high IQ, Tanenbaum remains an essential addiction. (Aug.)