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.