An unconventional courtroom drama offers a complexity of character often overlooked in this usually fast-paced genre.
In 1959 Milwaukee, two motorbike patrolman pull over a black youth for a broken taillight. No more than 15 minutes later, the boy is dead and a conspiracy is born. John Rogan, the officer who shot Jimmy Norman, is a racist who had gone out that cold winter night looking for trouble. The other officer, Tommy Paley, though no angel himself, became a pawn in the game Rogan and then his superiors played, concealing the truth and joining in a coverup that lasts 20 years. Decades later, the down-and-out Paley purges his conscience of what he knows, and the Norman family sues the city of Milwaukee for obstruction of justice. In the midst of the trial a mayoral election is underway, and the fates of everyone involved—the standing mayor, his opponent, the journalist covering the trial, and the opponent’s wife he’s having an affair with—become inextricably linked to its outcome. But none of this large cast of personalities (including civil rights leaders, political aides, and trial lawyers) is as commanding as Olivia Brown, the regal sister of the dead teenager, railing for justice and a hundred million dollars. As the trial proceeds, the details of the coverup, implicating the highest officials in the city, come to light. Equally shocking information on Olivia Brown is revealed: she’s a wealthy slumlord, but how did she get the money to start her empire? No one is innocent in this, Milofsky’s third novel (Eternal People, 1998, etc.): the trial merely emphasizes the general fall from grace.
A thoughtful exploration of race, greed, and political manipulation in urban America.