For his first criminal case, a Louisiana trial attorney defends a friend, who shot a man on live television, in this debut legal drama.
Jack Carney knows he’ll represent longtime pal Connor Padget, even after watching him gun down a man in police custody during a TV news report. The man his friend shot is Alfred Pohl, a karate instructor whose arrest was for kidnapping Scot, Connor’s 11-year-old son. Connor further suspects that Pohl molested the boy, though he has no proof. The senior partners at Jack’s firm, which specializes in civil matters, don’t want him to take the case, especially after Pohl’s death at the hospital upgrades Connor’s charge to first-degree murder. The district attorney is ready to argue that Connor’s motive was his suspicion of an affair between his wife, Mary Beth, and Pohl. Jack is going for manslaughter, though he’s certain Connor will still serve time. The lawyer builds his case by digging through Pohl’s sordid history, including duplicity and a prior arrest. But Jack believes the best way for the jury to sympathize with seemingly unremorseful Connor is putting Scot on the stand. Unfortunately, neither Connor nor Mary Beth wants Scot to testify and the couple do what they can to prevent it from happening. Roberts’ legal tale is quietly engaging. The story, for example, follows Jack’s relatively ordinary life: He’s in an apparently loveless marriage with Adrienne while simultaneously attracted to reporter Kathy Postlewait. None of it is overly melodramatic, as if Jack, who narrates, merely wants to relay the events without pretense. The same applies to the murder case, which gradually monopolizes Jack’s time with an end result he fully anticipates. Despite the dry but realistic approach, the story continually captivates, featuring a protagonist willingly risking his career and reputation to help a friend. Jack is also refreshingly blunt, and his dialogue often rings true. “I can’t play detective and search out the real killer like you see on TV,” he tells Connor. “I mean, you’re the one who killed him.”
A subdued but enthralling examination of life in and outside a courtroom.