In Sattler’s (Dog Days, 2013) courtroom drama, a veteran public defender revisits an old case as she faces the end of her career.
Anne Levy must decide whether to resign or be fired after two decades working as a public defender in Tucson, Arizona. The immediate cause of her downfall is a personality conflict with a recently arrived, by-the-book boss, but it quickly becomes clear that Anne also has a number of personal and professional secrets. Sattler uses frequent flashbacks to show Anne’s neurological disorder, her many failed relationships, and the case that nearly brought an end to her career. Despite Anne’s prickly, often abrupt attitude toward other people in her life, she’s an engaging character as she grows to accept her humanity without ever losing her edge. The author also vividly draws the supporting characters, including Gina, Anne’s secretary and staunchest ally; and Brian, who broke up with Anne when she always put her work first, but remains a reliable, platonic friend. The descriptions of the jails, courtrooms and public defender’s office are also strong, leaving readers smelling the stale coffee and fearing the short-tempered judge, just as the characters do. It’s sometimes difficult to tell when the narrative moves between a flashback and the present, and these transitions could have been more polished. But Sattler is skilled at dialogue, effectively using it to develop the characters: “Look Alberto, I’m not your social director. I’m here to help with your case,” Anne tells a new client; in another exchange, her advice is: “If you’re going to hide out in Mexico to avoid trial, stay there.” The end result is an enjoyable, realistic depiction of one woman’s midlife reassessment of herself and her choices.
A highly readable novel of courtroom and interpersonal drama.