Books by Joseph T. Klempner

FOGBOUND by Joseph T. Klempner
Released: Nov. 24, 2003

A retired judge is lured from his South Carolina hermitage to handle one last appeal for a Death Row inmate. Read full book review >
IRREPARABLE DAMAGE by Joseph T. Klempner
Released: June 1, 2001

"A torridly paced read that hastens to its foreordained conclusion impeded by the slightest subtlety or nuance in handling what some folks might consider a rather complicated subject."
The heavy-handed nightmare of a squeaky-clean divorced dad's ordeal when an innocent photo ends up getting him charged with child abuse. Read full book review >
FLAT LAKE IN WINTER by Joseph T. Klempner
Released: Jan. 1, 1999

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. Read full book review >
CHANGE OF COURSE by Joseph T. Klempner
Released: Aug. 14, 1998

A stripped-down novella about a man's last sailing trip with his terminally ill brother. The narrator, who sounds an awful lot like the author—he's a middle-aged lawyer named Joe with three children who's had some success with crime novels that bear a certain resemblance to Felony Murder (1995) and Shoot the Moon (1997)—begins with a foreword claiming that the story he's about to tell is true, based on the sea log he kept 15 years ago when he joined his younger brother Jack, 39, on a trip aboard the 36-foot sloop Sea Legs to distant Walker Island. Despite his inexperience as a sailor, Joe welcomes Jack's invitation as a sign that he's turning away from thoughts of the unspecified fatal disease he's been diagnosed with to more constructive celebrations of life. And the two men begin their 1500-mile cruise across the Atlantic celebrating with all the calculated midlife abandon of John Cassavettes heroes. They hug each other, they revisit the scenes of their shared youth, they share banalities about first love, they sail through a wicked storm, they enjoy the chance to reverse their typical roles, with Jack playing captain and his older brother the first mate. As Joe says, however, "I'm a great believer in omens," and his presentation throughout is so weightily metaphoric that few readers will share his surprise when Jack tells him that there is no Walker Island; the spot is just the arbitrary latitude and longitude Jack's picked to slip off the sloop, leaving Joe to sail back home alone. Frantic to talk his brother out of his plan, and convinced that his legal training and his closeness to his brother make him the ideal person for the job, Joe tries every argument he can think of. In the manner of a seagoing ‘Night, Brother, Jack has unsurprising answers for every one. Though the treatment is more sincere than arresting, most readers will know on their own whether they want to hear the two brothers play out an argument that usually goes on inside one person. Read full book review >
SHOOT THE MOON by Joseph T. Klempner
Released: Aug. 14, 1997

Think it would be fun to be sitting on top of something worth a cool $5 million? Not when the something is primo heroin. The heroin came with the pink Camry Michael Goodman rented in Fort Lauderdale—not the Camry designated for him, of course, but one that had been reserved for (ahem) somebody else. And he'd be perfectly willing to turn it in to the cops—he takes considerable trouble to do so—if only they wouldn't make it so hard, and he weren't running out of money (he's an unemployed bookkeeper), and his six-year-old daughter Kelly hadn't come down with a worrisome series of headaches that have sent her into the hospital for ever more dire tests. So when Goodman heads back to New York, it's with two duffel bags full of dynamite H and an enemies list that includes (1) the Florida hoods he inadvertently ripped off; (2) the NYPD; and (3) the DEA. Luckily, he's protected by Kelly, a stray cat, and Carmen Pacelli, a street- savvy prostitute who turns up on his doorstep. In other words, Goodman, as his name suggests, is armored with nothing but shining innocence. In particular, he's cast as a blissfully ignorant Road Runner to the canny authorities, whose armory of high-tech entrapment gear (phone taps, room bugs, a formidably equipped mobile unit) and eagerness to break every rule in the book to bust him keep getting torpedoed by their escalating incompetence, as if all that technology had been provided by the same Acme Co. that's been supplying Wile E. Coyote all these years. Readers who root for the good guys will enjoy the special challenge posed by Goodman, too nice to do time for dealing (so he can't be caught) but too principled to make a killing from selling heroin (so he can't get away). Anybody who can overlook the just-for-my-sick-girl plea will enjoy watching Klempner (Felony Murder, 1995) rescue his hero as charmingly as Donald E. Westlake. Read full book review >
FELONY MURDER by Joseph T. Klempner
Released: Sept. 11, 1995

Debut legal thriller about the David-and-Goliath defense of a homeless man accused of robbing and murdering the police commissioner of New York City. Although nobody claims that Joey Spadafino tried to kill Commissioner Edward Wilson, he had the bad luck to have Wilson suffer a fatal heart attack after he pulled a knife on hima legal basis for the charge of felony murder. But Joey tells Dean Abernathy, his court-appointed attorney, that he never saw Wilson alive, no matter what his signed confession says. Dean believes the confession rather than his clientuntil he realizes that the confession itself is a forgery; nurse Janet Killian, the leading witness against his client, is lying; and Wilson may have died from a toxic dose of a drug never prescribed for him. For every step forward, though, there's a step back. The police have thrown a cordon around the witnesses Dean wants to examine; a second key witness has vanished after refusing to corroborate Janet Killian's bogus story; Wilson's body has been conveniently cremated before Dean can request a second autopsy. Though the friendly prosecutor keeps offering more and more lenient plea- bargains, Joey Spadafino, languishing on Rikers Island, won't plead guilty even to misdemeanor robbery. And when Dean, having gotten the real story out of Janet Killian, goes with Janet to the FBI, the two are plunged into as much danger as Joey, who's so scared of his fellow inmates that he's asked for another hellish stretch in solitary confinement. Against Dean's urging, Joey insists on his day in courtif only he and his lawyer can live till then. For four years now you've been hearing that every new legal thriller is just like John Grisham. Well, Klempner really does write just like Grisham, warts and all (cartoonish heroes and villains, unnecessary legal detail, an incredible conspiracy, a flat-out irresistible narrative pull). St. Martin's should sell this first novel with a money-back guarantee. Read full book review >