by Gallatin Warfield ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 9, 1996
Hardheaded Maryland State's Attorney Gardner Lawson (Silent Son, 1994, etc.) wades back into the ring for a third face-off against Prince of Darkness Kent King, Esq. The case begins with the killing of Sgt. Joe Brown's father by a masked man who induces a fatal coronary by playing on the old man's fear of snakes. Repeatedly told that there's no forensic evidence of foul play, Brownie still gathers enough evidence to link his father's death to preacher Thomas Ruth, the wild-eyed head of the Church of the Ark, Incorporated (CAIN), who makes his followers prove their faith by walking through a pit of snakes. Infuriated when he's warned off the investigation in favor of abrasive Officer Frank Davis, Brownie pulls Ruth over on a lonely road, threatens him, cuffs him, and turns him loose--only to become the leading suspect when Ruth's found cuffed to an electrified fence, thoroughly fried, a few hours later. Enter despicable defense attorney King, who gets his old pal Judge Rollie Ransome to appoint him special prosecutor lest the D.A.'s office cover up Brownie's involvement. So Gardner quits his job, along with his faithful assistant Jennifer Munday, to wrestle Brownie's defense away from his incompetent attorney and stare down King from the other side of the aisle. Brownie hamstrings his lawyers by insisting on an unlikely suicide defense, but Gardner and Jennifer are convinced their client's covering for his bad-boy brother Katanga (nâ€š Paulie). That's about as subtle as it gets, since Gardner, ""a courtroom wizard,"" and Jennifer, ""a terminator in court,"" are paired off against King, ""a predatory litigator,"" and his Asian co-counsel Lin Song, ""the Samurai Slut,"" with heavy-breathing flashbacks to the principals' childhoods doing little to complicate the verdict: ""King defended evil, and Lawson represented good."" A Time to Kill knockoff with more mystification than Warfield usually vouchsafes his fans, but with every trace of moral complexity neatly ironed out.
Pub Date: Aug. 9, 1996
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996
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