After his strikingly original debut (The Perfect Witness, 1998), Siegel settles into a more well-worn groove, inviting his returning lawyer hero Greg Monarch to reopen the five-year-old murder conviction of his onetime lover. Sarah Trant has always had a thing for blades, as Greg first realized when she pulled a knife on a cat she insisted was waiting to attack her, effectively sending her off to a psychiatric clinic and ending their romance. Now Sarah, who—d gone after her release to live in the snug California valley of El Nido, is in much bigger trouble. Charles Whit, founder and managing director of ModoCorp, had planned a modern development project for El Nido and hired ancient local geologist Brewster Tomaz to burnish his reputation with the natives. When Tomaz was found with his throat cut, it took a jury less than an hour to find Sarah guilty. Looking over the case documents after Sarah’s final appeal has landed on his desk, Greg can see why. Along with the physical evidence against Sarah, the State had presented a dying declaration of Sarah’s guilt, courtesy of her friend, rancher Diana Sanborn, a witness whose reluctance made her testimony all the more damning. But when the witnesses he deposes keep contradicting the case put together by Sheriff Roy Rimmer, Greg decides that instead of arguing the appeal on procedural grounds, he—ll assert Sarah’s actual innocence, condemning the guilty verdict as a gross miscarriage of justice. Sadly, the moment Greg’s settled on his strategy, things get even more predictable, with witnesses rushing to recant their depositions on the stand. Only an eleventh-hour surprise can save Sarah. Hmm. Rousing stuff for fans of legal intrigue who aren—t up to the challenges of Siegel’s memorable debut.