Retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice Brown (Presumption of Guilt, 1991) serves up a legal thriller that fails to resolve the...



Retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice Brown (Presumption of Guilt, 1991) serves up a legal thriller that fails to resolve the difficult questions it raises. Successful Columbus, Ohio, lawyer Kathleen Sullivan has always known she was adopted, but it is not until she is 37 that she is contacted by her half-sister, Deb Garrison, who needs a blood sample from her to help identify the Huntington's disease gene that runs in their family. Deb is pregnant and may decide to abort the fetus if it carries the gene -- an option rejected by her politician husband, Buzz, pro-choice on the podium and a hypocrite to his wife, who considers this an issue of dominion over her body. Deb soon miscarries, and Buzz, while they are primping for a political dinner, accuses her of deliberately terminating the pregnancy. An angry Deb hurls her hair dryer at Buzz as he soaks in the Jacuzzi. That's it for Buzz, and Deb is arrested for his murder, so it's fortunate that she's just met the lawyer in the family. Trying to get Deb off with an insanity plea, Kathleen coaches both Deb and her defense attorney, Tony Biviano, Kathleen's new, younger lover. Justice Brown may have brought to his writing some sensationalist legal scenarios from his years on the bench, but he leaves behind the scrutinizing examination and dialogue that sticky ethical issues require. This is seen in Deb and Buzz's lack of debate over their differences on the possible abortion, inadequate exploration of pleas other than insanity, and Deb's father's refusal to testify after he fibbed during his written statement. Brown may have found sufficient drama in tackling these issues alone. Instead, the one-dimensional characters spew jargon and plod their way through their stereotypical roles as if following a TV script. All the trappings, but little of the substance, of a courtroom drama.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 1994


Page Count: 288

Publisher: Donald Fine

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1994