by Allen Drury ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 5, 1983
The Supreme Court reduced to shrill, sometimes crudely effective melodrama--as two of the Justices are forced to consider the death penalty. . . in the case of the man who killed/maimed their daughters. The newest addition to the High Court is Taylor (""Tay"") Barbour, a 45-ish liberal whose best pal is conservative Moss Pomeroy--an old classmate and now a fellow Justice. (Tay's bland life-history is awkwardly interpolated when he gives an interview to tart journalist Cathy Corning.) But while Tay is being sworn in, wacko radical-dropout Earle Holgren is planning to set off a bomb at the opening of an Atomic Energy plant in So. Carolina. And who just happens to be at the opening? Moss Pomeroy, with teenagers Sarah Pomeroy and Janie Barbour along for fun. So, when the blast goes off, Sarah is killed, Janie is brain-damaged--and terrorist Holgren is quickly apprehended by So. Carolina's vigilante-style Attorney-General, Regard Stinnet, who is leading a national law-and-order movement called ""Justice NOW!"" (Public floggings and televised executions are on his agenda.) The novel's central section, then, is the trial of Holgren, who also seems to have murdered his mistress and child: the evidence is almost entirely circumstantial; Holgren's ""Miranda rights"" have apparently been violated; his cartoonish, radical woman-lawyer speechifies at length; but he's convicted and sentenced to die (on TV) anyway. Meanwhile, ""Justice NOW!"" is sweeping the country, with some support from bitter Justice Pomeroy. (""No, Tay cried out in his mind. Not you, Moss."") Next, inevitably, the verdict and sentence are appealed to the Supreme Court: a stay-of-execution is denied by Pomeroy, then granted by ever-noble Tay (who, tormented by a shrewish wife, has begun an affair with newswoman Cathy); the Court hears arguments and debates, winding up with Tay's tie-breaking vote and a compromise decision. (The conviction is upheld, the death-sentence is rejected on narrow grounds, ""Miranda rights"" are modified.) And there's a final dollop of penny-dreadful violence--as Holgren escapes, thanks to his sexually smitten lawyer. . . and goes on a bloody rampage. Anyone with even the slightest sophistication about law will find Drury's crayon-and-fingerpaint version both laughable and irritating: notwithstanding a page or two of case-law, the oversimplifications are crass, often murky. Nor is the backstage-at-the Supreme-Court scene lively or convincing. Still, despite the stilted dialogue and stodgy pace here, there's a modicum of issue-interest and sentimental grab--which, together with the Drury byline, should ensure a solid commercial showing.
Pub Date: Aug. 5, 1983
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983
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