cover image Juror


Parnell Hall. Dutton Books, $18.95 (262pp) ISBN 978-1-55611-230-0

Hall's ( Client ) latest addition to the Stanley Hastings series featuring the somewhat inconsequential private detective who specializes in negligence cases, finds Hastings reluctantly serving as a juror in a numbingly boring trial. Fellow juror and aspiring actress Sherry Fontaine lives near Hastings's neighborhood, so he drives her to and from court each day. When she fails to meet him one morning, Hastings discovers her nude body in her apartment. Concerned that he will become a suspect, Hastings sleuths on his own, interviewing Fontaine's fellow actors, her ex-boyfriend and her cocaine supplier. Out of his league, Hastings is aided immeasurably if clandestinely by a typically crusty police acquaintance whose observations on murder investigations are the book's most insightful passages. While the plot is potentially exciting and clever, and Hall (who also writes as J. P. Hailey) is entertainingly familiar with the NYC court system, much of the prose seems careless and hasty. In addition, there are virtually no dispositive clues planted along the way; thus not even an observant reader can solve the murder logically. (Dec.)