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Idealistic Young Lawyer vs. Corrupt Officials and Organized Crime--in an old-fashioned crime tale (echoing, among others, Hammett's The Glass Key) that starts splendidly but overstays its Welcome, with an ever-slackening pace (only two days' action in nearly 400 pages) and far too many contrivances. Garnet's rather murkily motivated hero is 29-year-old Charley Thayer, who ignores objections from his father-figure/boss John Whitefield and announces (in a comically disastrous would-be press conference) that he's running against Mayor Jasper McSweeney of Northway (a fast-growing city near Detroit). So the mobsters who control McSweeney decide to nip Charley's campaign in the bud: they arrange--with help from Whitefield, a secret mob crony--for Charley to become defense attorney for Lou Bignotti, a mob lackey who has accidentally killed a teller while trying, in a Santa Claus mask, to rob a bank. (In the first of many strained coincidences, the teller just happens to be a woman whom Bignotti raped 30 years ago.) Within hours, of course, rumors about Bignotti's mob ties are tainting Charley's image. But the mob goes further: they spring Bignotti from jail and frame Charley for the jailbreak. So our hero is soon on the run, trying to track down Bignotti while cops pursue and the mob plans escalate: they'll frame Charley for murder now. Still, however, Charley fights back gamely--with help from gutsy newswoman Ellie--and he ends up with solid evidence of the mob/political connection. . . and with a ludicrously corny revelation about his real parentage. Too many hand-me-down plot contortions, then, and too many pages per hour of action. But Garnet shows real scene-by-scene talent (especially in the early, ironic chapters), and even though overlong and often-implausible, this is readable suspense which promises better work in the future.

Pub Date: Aug. 12th, 1981
Publisher: Ticknor & Fields/Houghton Mifflin