A thoroughly entertaining legal thriller in which a young man who believes he's committed murder may have it wrong. They don't get much crime way up in the Adirondacks, especially in the winter, but when it happens, it happens big. Young Jonathan Hamilton is a quiet boy, a 'slow" boy—all right, some say retarded. But nobody around Flat Lake had ever thought of him as violent until the day his grandparents were found hacked to bits, with Jonathan sitting nearby in a river of gore. Arrested, he confesses. Jailed, he's charged with first degree. His prosecutor will be an out-for-blood D.A. eager for the political hay to be harvested by executing Jonathan now that New York State has reinstated the death penalty. Which is when Matt Fielder comes down from the mountain. Matt, a good lawyer, though disenchanted for sundry reasons, has been leading a Thoreau-like existence in a log cabin built lovingly by himself. But it seems he's the only attorney within Shanghaiing distance who's gone through The Death School, a specialized training course developed to better prepare public defenders to cope in capital trials, and, an idealist (and closet competitor), he allows himself to be drafted. On a budget from hell, Matt manages to cobble together a first-rate team of investigators and researchers. So what really happened on the night Carter and Mary Alice Hamilton were offed? A combination of luck, labor, and clever sleuthing turns up an answer that leads to a solid defense. But then, amidst of triumph, Matt is rocked to learn that his winning answer may be the wrong one after all. Defense attorney Klempner (Shoot the Moon, 1997, etc.) still occasionally sounds more like a lawyer than a novelist, but, this time, we get an absorbing story and an engaging cast. And the ending is a smash.
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