Francis X. Galvin, the down-at-the-heels lawyer who so memorably took on the establishment in The Verdict (1980), has become part of the establishment now: he's about to land a partnership in a top Boston firm when fledgling attorney Antonia Alvarez asks him to help prosecute a suit against Gammett Industries, whose miracle drug for heart disease, Lyosin, has produced birth defects in the children of her Portuguese clients. Not only is Galvin obliged to turn down the case, since his firm already represents Gammett, but he's forced to defend the suit against Tina and the allies he's rounded up for her, including his old partner, Moe Katz. There's no mystery about guilt: Reed reveals early on that Chip Hovington, son of Galvin's boss, has advised Universal, Gammett's multinational parent corporation, to backdate changes in Gammett's incorporation papers to shield itself from an American lawsuit, and that Sabrina Bok-Sahn, the brainy Burmese whose family's research is behind Lyosin, has suppressed evidence dating back to 1902 of the side-effects of the drug's active ingredient. But suspense mounts as we watch Galvin maneuver within his fraternity of well- tailored sharks for advantages he doesn't think Gammett deserves, even as he gradually realizes that key witnesses—the letter carrier who allowed Universal to avoid the serving of legal documents, the down- home lawyer who tried to blackmail Universal into a rich retirement, and finally repentant Sabrina herself—are getting killed, and he's the logical next victim of his own client's desperate greed. Not even a massively predictable finale can spoil what may be the best novel of legal infighting ever. Eat your heart out, Perry Mason.
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