Books by Steve Martini

Steve Martini is the author of The Arraignment, The Jury, The Attorney, and other novels featuring attorney Paul Madriani.

BLOOD FLAG by Steve Martini
Released: May 17, 2016

"Martini holds serve with his 14th Paul Madriani thriller, in which Hitler's evil legacy continues to haunt survivors of World War II."
After World War II veteran Robert Brauer dies under mysterious circumstances, San Diego attorney Paul Madriani—hired to defend Brauer's daughter on charges of assisting a suicide—discovers the old man was not the only member of his former Army unit to meet with a suspicious end. Read full book review >
DOUBLE TAP by Steve Martini
Released: July 26, 2005

"Real-life fears of government snooping under the Patriot Act will probably send this case to the top of the charts, though it's far from Martini's best work."
Attempting to defend his latest client charged with murder, Paul Madriani (The Arraignment, 2002, etc.) is hamstrung by none other than the U.S. government. Read full book review >
THE ARRAIGNMENT by Steve Martini
Released: Jan. 6, 2003

"Despite the crackerjack opening movement, Paul's first instinct was right: No thanks."
A highly suspect client takes San Diego attorney Paul Madriani (The Jury, 2001, etc.) farther from the courtroom than he's ever been—maybe a little too far. Read full book review >
THE JURY by Steve Martini
Released: June 25, 2001

"The outline for a much better novel is here: glamorous victim, well-connected defendant, bulldog prosecutor, resourceful defender, weighty issues. What a shame that everything that would make it memorable has been left blank, right down to the jury."
The San Diego power shortage must be affecting Paul Madriani: his latest high-profile legal suspenser is his weakest yet. Read full book review >
THE ATTORNEY by Steve Martini
Released: Jan. 10, 2000

The generic title is a tip-off that the latest case for San Diego lawyer Paul Madriani—an ugly child-custody battle that explodes in murder—is less than his finest hour. It all starts promisingly enough with the return of a former client, Jonah Hale, now the winner of an $87 million lottery prize that's brought him nothing but grief. In the latest chapter of his troubles, Jonah's ex-con daughter, Jessica—after announcing that if he doesn—t come across with a lottery-sized payout to her, she—ll take back the granddaughter he and his wife Mary were awarded custody of—has snatched little Amanda, presumably with the help of Zolanda Suade, the man-hating one-person battalion of the Women's Defense Forum, and spirited her off to Mexico. Paul talks himself into Zolanda's office, but the only news he gets from her is that Jessica's filing a lawsuit alleging that her father raped her as a child and has more recently been molesting Amanda. Just when the stage seems set for a knockdown bout between Paul and the Woman of Steel, Zolanda gets herself shot, with every indication that Jonah pulled the trigger, and the case settles into a more familiar, even a soothing, groove. Martini tries his best for fireworks—Paul goes after the very first witness, the inoffensive medical examiner, like a hungry piranha—but none of his surviving enemies, from prosecuting attorney Ruben Ryan to Mexican druglord Esteban Ontaveroz, Jessica's fearsome ex- lover and the absent suspect Paul would most like to put on the spot for killing Jessica's closest ally, packs anything like the firepower of the late Zolanda. Not even the moment when Paul's current inamorata, the Child Protective Services director Susan McKay, buries his client with her reluctantly damning testimony lives up to the juicy promise of those early pages. Don—t worry about the usually reliable Martini, though (The Judge, 1996, etc.). As his long-suffering client attests, even lottery winners have their off days. (Literary Guild alternate selection; Mystery Guild main selection) Read full book review >
CRITICAL MASS by Steve Martini
Released: Sept. 21, 1998

Courtroom specialist Martini, last seen reveling in the unlikely trials of ghostwriting (The List, 1997), tries his hand at a Tom Clancy premise: an errant Russian nuclear bomb in the hands of home-grown terrorists. The latest report from the weapons-dismantling plant in Sverdlovsk seems to indicate that two nuclear devices have gone missing, but the Russian reporting system since the breakup of the USSR has been so rife with inaccuracies that there's probably no cause for alarm, unless you're ex-UN arms inspector Gideon Van Ry, now charged in his position at the Institute Against Mass Destruction with monitoring such devices. Flying to Sverdlovsk, Gideon swiftly discovers that the reports are all too accurate and that the petty bureaucrats who should've been watching the barn door are mostly interested in covering themselves. Back home in Puget Sound, burned-out lawyer Jocelyn Cole's sweating the subpoena her latest client, charming, wealthy electronics manufacturer Dean Belden, has received from a federal grand jury—and why, after flying her down to Seattle to testify, the client high-tails it out of the courtroom just in time to perish in a fiery crash. Meantime, militiaman Buck Thompson is working a clever, cost-effective telephone scam while disguised as a UPS driver, and widowed community college teacher Scott Taggart is vowing revenge on the government that drove his wife to suicide. As in the James Bond movies, a good deal of the fun in the early going is trying to figure out just what all these plot strands have to do with each other. Once they come together, though, Martini shifts gears to a smooth but essentially vacuous action mode, with sedentary types like Gideon and Jose Cole displaying unexpected aptitude for the Steven Seagal tasks, and the closest thing to moral complexity being the President's fears that a nuclear detonation may reveal his ties to a Russian arms dealer who slipped him too many rubles. Thunderball meets The Rock. Any resemblance to books that haven't been made into movies is purely coincidental. Read full book review >
THE LIST by Steve Martini
Released: Feb. 10, 1997

So you thought it was all fun and games having a breakout novel? Come listen to Martini, on leave from his series about defense attorney Paul Madriani (The Judge, 1996, etc.), spin this wild and wooly tale of a pseudonym caper from hell. Life hasn't been kind to Abby Chandlis. She's going nowhere in her Seattle law firm; her second career as a novelist is stalled; her shiftless ex is behind in his payments, leaving her dining on cat food. But Abby has an ace in the hole: a new novel that could hit the bestseller list with the force of a pile- driver. Could hit, if only Abby weren't so unglamorous (she's pushing 40), so shopworn (those old novels turn out to be worse than no help), so unpromotable. So Abby and her roommate Theresa decide to find a front, some male model who'll masquerade as ``Gable Cooper'' for a percentage of a take that stretches higher than Jack's beanstalk. And even though the front that Abby ends up with, soldier-of-fortune/failed novelist Jack Jermaine, isn't exactly what she was looking for, the two storm through a brightly malicious pipe dream of literary celebrity, as Abby sticks like glue to her supposed client's side while big-ticket agents, publishers, and producers fight over them like so many jackals. But even before take-charge Jermaine spirits his dazzled ghostwriter off to the Caribbean for some sun and sex, clouds have gathered on the horizon. Theresa has died in a suspicious accident that seems meant for Abby; Theresa's low-life husband Joey follows apace; the Seattle police are looking for Abby; so is a scandal-sheet reporter; and finally Abby wonders whether her own legal claim to her chart-busting novel might be a lot more slender than she thought—and might be based a little too exclusively on the testimony of her late friend. Absolutely irresistible balderdash—The Pelican Brief for everybody who isn't John Grisham. (First printing of 400,000; $350,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild/Mystery Guild main selection) Read full book review >
THE JUDGE by Steve Martini
Released: Jan. 3, 1996

Great news for California lawyer Paul Madriani: His nemesis, Judge Armando (``the Coconut'') Acosta, has been charged first with solicitation and then with murder. Madriani's only problem is that, against all odds, the judge has become his client. It happens like this: Acosta's vendetta against Madriani's client Sgt. Tony Arguillo, alleged to have cooked the Police Association's books, collapses when Acosta is picked up for offering to pay reserve police deputy Brittany Hall for the kinds of favors Madriani has always assumed he enjoys. But the audiotape Hall made of their encounter turns up silent (some technical glitch) and then so does Hall herself, bludgeoned to death. Arguillo's cousin Lenore Goya—the prosecutor whose preparation of the solicitation case is ended when D.A. Coleman Klein, a political comer who doesn't like subordinates who stand up to him, cuts her loose—agrees to take on the Coconut's defense. But her attempt to join the solicitation charge with the homicide backfires when her status as Acosta's former prosecutor forces her to step aside, and Madriani's left holding the bag. The case against Acosta—no alibi, a highly improper appointment on Hall's calendar for the afternoon of the murder, forensic evidence that places her body inside his car, his broken eyeglasses left at Hall's place, except for a sliver lodged in her foot—lacks only an eyewitness. No, the only eyewitness, Hall's five-year-old daughter Kimberly, can place both Goya and Madriani himself on the scene. Meantime, the Police Association has been working overtime to discredit Madriani in order to burn the judge. The resulting legal/extralegal slugfest (marred only by Madriani's endless glosses on every action and every speech, as if he were a color commentator on a baseball broadcast) has something for everybody, even readers who think they can see every twist coming. Not as dense with surprises as Undue Influence (1994), but right up there with the rest of Martini's dependable output: a guaranteed rush for fans of courtroom drama. (Literary Guild main selection; Mystery Guild selection) Read full book review >
UNDUE INFLUENCE by Steve Martini
Released: July 6, 1994

California attorney Paul Madriani is back. Don't bother waiting till the fall entries are in—Martini (Prime Witness, 1993, etc.) has written the courtroom novel of the year. Before his wife died of cancer, Paul promised that he'd help her kid sister, Laurel, win her custody battle for her two teenagers against her ex-husband, Jack Vega, a slimy political beast remarried to brainless beauty Melanie. But the night after Laurel and Melanie's very public cat-fight in a courthouse corridor, Melanie's shot dead in her shower; an APB goes out for missing Laurel, whose own lawyer drops her case; and Paul realizes he's in for the most devilish case of his career. The evidence against Laurel is strong: She's picked up in a Reno laundromat with Melanie's compact in her purse and Melanie's bathmat in the washer, soaking in a corrosive cleaner that could have removed any traces of gunshot—a cleaner that's raised painful, inconclusive burns on Laurel's hands. And feral prosecutor Morgan Cassidy's chief investigator, Jimmy Lama, clearly has his knife out for Paul. But thanks mainly to one of Melanie's neighbors—Paul's old antagonist, federal prosecutor Dana Colby—Paul knows even more about the case's weakness than Morgan does. He knows that two other neighbors, George and Kathy Merlow, vanished into thin air hours after the murder, and that Kathy Merlow's best friend was killed by a no-nonsense pro moments before she could say where Kathy was. He knows where the Merlows fled to, and how to find them. He knows that despite the evidence that Melanie was pregnant, Jack had a vasectomy years ago. Best of all, he knows that Jack's already on his way to jail as part of a secret, ongoing federal investigation. The resulting thrust-and-parry assures virtually nonstop courtroom pyrotechnics— even the most innocuous testimony turns into a ballet of blindsiding and body blows—and leaves plenty of room for a dazzling climax. (Literary Guild main selection; authour tour) Read full book review >
PRIME WITNESS by Steve Martini
Released: July 14, 1993

Defense attorney Paul Madriani (Compelling Evidence, 1992) signs on for a brief stint in the Davenport, California, prosecutor's office—then finds himself condemned to try a high-profile serial killing. Three couples have been murdered by somebody whose MO is distinctively grisly—they're staked to the ground with tent pegs, another peg driven through their hearts—but the third incident is different in enough ways (much older couple, different kind of rope, tent pegs not sharpened to a point) to suggest a copycat killer. Still, after Paul and his investigators turn up Andre Iganovich, a suspect for the first two pairs of murders, everybody—from Paul's impatient wife Nikki to the judges to the Davenport powers that be, even to Adrian Chambers, the venal defense attorney representing Iganovich, and certainly including the anonymous caller threatening Paul's family if he doesn't include the last two murders in the indictment—wants Paul to close the case by pinning all six crimes on Iganovich instead of continuing to search for the copycat. But Paul's determined to track down the missing witness to the last two murders, a man who has his own reasons for keeping quiet about why he was perched in a tree high above the fatal scene. The obligatory impossible obstacles—constant pressure from Paul's old nemesis Judge Armando Acosta; the incompetence and possible treachery of graying junior prosecutor Roland Overroy; an extradition mess when Iganovich flees the country; and the unprincipled enmity of Chambers, on the rebound from a disbarment arranged partly by Paul—come at Paul helter-skelter, without much rhyme or reason, until midway through the book, when the trial begins and Martini rolls up his sleeves to do what he does best. Not as twisty or deeply felt as Compelling Evidence, but not as overwrought either—and the unbelievable ending packs a satisfying punch. Good medium-grade beach fare. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 1992

A year after he's fired from the California law firm of Potter, Skarpellos by Ben Potter, who's found out he's having an affair with Ben's wife Talia, corporate-turned-criminal lawyer Paul Madriani is asked to join Talia's defense—on a charge of murdering Ben on the eve of his nomination to the Supreme Court. It's the other partner, Tony (``the Greek'') Skarpellos, who inveigles Madriani to put aside two other investigations—helping county medical examiner George Cooper figure out who abandoned his daughter to burn to death after a car crash, and defending high- profile hooker Susan Hawley, who doesn't want to implicate her well- placed clients in ``boinkgate'' even if she's granted immunity—and to sign on as assisting counsel to nitwit glamourpuss Gibert Cheetam, who promptly runs Talia's defense into the ground and jumps ship after the grand jury indicts her. So Madriani, his affair with Talia making him painfully vulnerable, takes over as chief counsel, infuriating his estranged wife Nikki even before he realizes that Skarpellos, who stands to inherit the hugely profitable firm if Talia takes the rap, has set him up. Martini (The Simeon Chamber, 1988), whose early scenes could have used some advice from assisting counsel too (the obligatory between-the-sheets flashback is introduced by noting ``the cold wetness of my own passions, a small portion of which had pooled in the creases of the sheets beneath where her loins had rested''), rouses himself for the well-paced trial scenes, which heat up even further when news of the Talia/Madriani affair reaches the ears of the presiding judge, determined that no mistrial's going to stand in the way of his reelection—and when Madriani decides to pin his hopes on an all-out assault on Skarpellos. The final surprise, though, is eminently guessable. Martini is no Scott Turow—his characters are thinner, his prose flabbier—but his legal intrigue will probably keep you up just as late. (Book-of-the-Month Dual Selection for Spring) Read full book review >