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 A dogged defense attorney's running battle with an unimpeachable prosecution witness raises disturbing questions about the nature of the judicial process, in this first novel by crime reporter Siegel (Shades of Gray, 1992, etc.). At first Greg Monarch thinks the evidence against his former law partner Ira Sullivan, now one step up from a drugged-out bum, is a joke. The pistol that killed neighboring postmaster Bob Wilson is found on Sandy Polson, not on Ira, along with $33,000 wrapped in one of the postmaster's towels. Sandy's explanation: Ira came rushing out of the post office and gave her the gun and the money to hold, and she was too frightened and confused to say no. The tale is incredible, of course--but she tells it, and the many stories that follow, with an absolute conviction that makes her the perfect witness. Sandy is one smooth piece of work. Whenever Greg threatens to trip her up on a detail, she just weaves his information into a new version just as seamless as the last. And when a dim corroborating witness, Paul Platt, phones Greg to tell him he's been lying under pressure from hungry D.A. Dennis Taylor, Greg--ever the boy scout--refuses to see him, then agrees, only to have Sandy and Taylor turn Paul around again, and Taylor haul Greg up on charges before the California bar. Greg struggles through Ira's trial trying to figure out the case's connection to a runaway jury's earlier rampage against the nearby Devil's Peak nuclear facility. But he gets stonewalled at every turn; he's no match in the courtroom for an accomplished liar like Sandy, and the jury takes only two hours to convict his client. Then things get really interesting. Not a whodunit, but a sharp, unsparing exploration of the conflicts between justice and advocacy in the adversarial system Greg's inherited from the Founding Fathers.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-345-41307-5
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1997


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