"[W]hen you help a rapist get acquitted and your wife and daughter are killed the next day, it’s awfully hard to convince yourself that karma doesn’t exist," muses Dan Sorenson in Mitzner’s (A Conflict of Interest, 2011) second legal thriller.
After resigning from a prestigious NYC law firm following the death of his wife and daughter at the hands of a drunken driver, Sorenson spent 18 months drowning his guilt and grief in whiskey. That accident happened after Sorenson’s successful defense of Darrius Macy, NFL Super Bowl hero. Now he’s been confronted by Nina Harrington, a young attorney. Harrington is resigning from another prestigious firm to defend Legally Dead, a rapper incarcerated for the murder of Roxanne, a rising pop star. She’s certain of his innocence. Harrington inveigles Sorenson into interviewing the rapper at Rikers Island. Legally Dead has fired Marcus Jackson, prominent African-American attorney, because Jackson suggested plea negotiation. Mitzner, a Big Apple attorney himself, isn’t afraid to employ the headliners as tropes—Jackson could be Cochran, Roxanne is Taylor Swift-ian, and Legally Dead and Darrius Macy could be edgy celebrities like Chris Brown and Ben Roethlisberger. Given he neglected his family pursuing the brass ring of celebrity, Sorenson’s emotional collapse is nicely realized, especially considering his moral quandary upon learning Macy lied about his innocence; so also is Sorenson’s perception of the new case as possible redemption. Despite Harrington’s tangled love life and ultimate motivation, she and other characters—Brooks, monomaniacal record mogul; Nuts, Legally Dead’s friend; grandstanding Judge Pielmeier—are more one-dimensional. Nevertheless, Mitzner’s courtroom drama is Grisham-like in suspenseful before-the-bench action. The book is plot-driven, and it’s a wicked ride, with more loops and flips than Coney Island’s Cyclone, right up to the surprise-and-bigger-surprise denouement—one leaving open the possibility Sorenson might reprise his role as the go-to guy when a celebrity needs a mouthpiece.
Law and Order-like twist-and-turn, moral-quandary suspense needing only the echoing cell door sound effect.