cover image Witness for the Defense

Witness for the Defense

Jonnie Jacobs. Kensington Publishing Corporation, $23 (320pp) ISBN 978-1-57566-643-3

Jacobs's latest legal thriller (Motion to Dismiss, etc.) will catch the attention of anyone captivated by current scandals involving botched adoptions and bitter custody battles. Following the collapse of her brief love affair with a married man, crackerjack attorney Kali O'Brien returns to San Francisco to single life and a languishing law practice. When psychologist Steven Cross, a grief-stricken widower from Kali's past, refers Terri and Ted Harper to her for what seems like a simple adoption case, Kali accepts. But she is wary because Ted and Terri's previous adoption attempt ended with the birth mother reclaiming her infant. This time Ted, a former quarterback, and his beautiful wife take the extra precaution of moving the pregnant girl, Melissa Burke, into their home until the birth of the baby. Melissa and the birth father both sign the requisite papers, to the Harpers' relief. But their joy is short-lived: when the baby arrives, brash, reactionary radio talk-show host Bram Weaver announces he is the father and sues for custody. Kali prepares to fight an uphill legal battle until Bram is murdered and police arrest Terri based on evidence found at the crime scene. As Kali gathers information about Bram, uncovering his many enemies, her relationship with Cross becomes more personal. And when an eyewitness with a shady past surfaces, she must convince him to testify. Though the deus ex machina ending disappoints, swift pacing, multiple motives and twisting plot lines will satisfy and keep readers guessing. (Apr.) Forecast: The Kali O'Brien series is gaining in popularity Motion to Dismiss was a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller and while sales won't rival those of Lisa Scottoline, Jacobs has picked a hot topic that should pique the interest of readers outside the usual legal-thriller crowd.