The best courtroom-drama novel in years--with minutely detailed cross-examination swept along on a tide of surefire devices: a David-and-Goliath setup with the opposing lawyers, Boston atmosphere and repartee worthy of a George V. Higgins, surprise witnesses, an unspeakable judge, and a heart-rending medical situation at the center of it all. The David here is 50-ish lawyer Frank Galvin--night-school-trained, in debt, disreputable, living in sin with a Chinese woman after abandoning his family, virtually friendless except for his old mentor, Moe Katz. But, though you'd think Galvin would be a classic ""guzinta"" ambulance-chaser (always figuring his one-third share of a settlement, how three ""guzinta"" the total sum), he turns down the $300,000 offered by St. Catherine Laboure Hospital to settle the case of Deborah Ruth Rosen. . . who's been a vegetable ever since vomiting into the anesthesia mask during labor, ""drowning,"" and going into a brain-dramaging coma. No, Galvin insists on bringing it to trial--against the medical establishment, against the Church, against top Boston lawyer J. Edward Concannon. Moreover, Concannon's comely associate successfully goes incognito and seduces Galvin, eager to pick up hints of his strategy. (""It would not be easy to betray him. But she would manage."") So how can Galvin fight these terrible odds? With a hired medical expert--a 78-year-old black M.D. who turns out to be friskily articulate on the witness stand. With a surprise witness--the admitting nurse who knows that there was hospital negligence (the key issue: whether the docs knew the patient had a full stomach). And with some of the best courtroom rhetoric ever gotten down in print. Admittedly, the actual suspense-plotting here is rather thin--but Reed makes it work by keeping Gavin's tactics secret until they're sprung on jury, opposing counsel, and reader. And, except for one corny lapse (lovable Moe has a stroke at an artificially crucial moment), the pacing is absolutely first-rate. The heightened but very authentic courtroom wrangles fly by, the lawyerly huddles are properly slimy, Gavin is a hero yet never a shining white knight--superb melodrama, which should play (TV or film) even better than it reads.