A lukewarm legal tale that only comes alive in the second half.

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A CONFLICT OF INTEREST

A debut novel that combines the politics of big law firms, securities fraud and illicit affairs.

Mitzner’s tale follows the story of Alex Miller, who shares the author’s initials and occupation: defense attorney. Miller, married to Elizabeth and father to 5-year-old Charlotte, works for one of those huge law firms that expects its employees to work nearly around the clock. When Alex’s father dies, his father’s closest friend, Michael Ohlig, a wealthy securities trader, asks for Alex’s help. Ohlig expects to be indicted for securities fraud and wants Alex and his firm to represent him. Alex agrees, and Michael ponies up the $2 million retainer. Then beautiful Abby Sloane is assigned to the case as Alex’s second and the situation get predictably complicated from every angle: Alex finds himself drawn to her, the case heats up and things get personal with his mother, who has not been herself since her husband died. When everything starts slipping out of control, Alex faces both a personal challenge and a startling truth. The first half of the book reads like a tutorial on the operation of a big-city law firm. The author goes into dreary detail about every aspect of the securities case, even naming all of the associating attorneys and their clients, despite the fact that most of them never really surface again. Mitzner also has a tendency to over-explain the inner workings of the system from the lawyer’s point of view with the result that the first half reads more like a legal text than a work of fiction. In fact, the first chapters are so weighted down with legalese and filler (every meeting has a buffet, and the author provides a faithful rendition of the food choices) that the story surfaces as an afterthought. It’s not until the Mitzner moves past the securities phase that Alex becomes interesting and the story line picks up speed. Most readers aren’t going to wade through the first part to get to the second, which is a shame because that’s when the real storytelling begins.

A lukewarm legal tale that only comes alive in the second half.

Pub Date: May 17, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4391-5751-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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