After flaming out at a prestigious firm, a young lawyer does penance in the public-defenders office, learning quickly and sharply about the legal system of the streets in a fast-moving debut thriller.
Joel Deveraux’s smarts took him on an uninterrupted track from a modest family and educational background through Columbia Law to a white-shoe firm. Then his smooth upward glide was interrupted by a relationship with Beth, a young paralegal who turned him on to heroin, providing blissful escape from a mind-numbing billable life as an associate. Beth won the undeclared race to see who could crash and burn quicker, dying of an overdose in the ladies room and leaving Joel to limp away from the firm and sit out a six-month suspension of his license. He got away light. Beth’s rich, vengeful father did his best to have the young lawyer disbarred for life. At the end of his suspension he goes to work for the public-defenders office at the bottom of the ladder, handling the arraignments of the bottom of New York’s criminal food chain. His luck changes when his supervisor assigns him to work a murder case under smart, prickly Myra Goldstein. Joel, who’s more likable than he thinks, scrambles to prove himself useful to Myra, who hadn’t seen the need for any help, thank you. Their defendant is an amiable black drug dealer who seemingly had nothing to gain from shooting a guy who owed him money, accidentally doing in a white bystander in the area. But the wounded victim’s girlfriend swears she saw him pull the trigger. Myra and Joel do the investigative work that the police neglected, discovering that the bystander was not so innocent, and that there was hanky-panky with the police work on the identification. The two lawyers build a case and a relationship, the case goes to trial and, with some hair-raising turns, justice reigns.
Not groundbreaking, but plenty entertaining.