A criminal defense lawyer believes his latest client may have been framed for multiple murders in Carstens’ debut legal thriller.
For Minnesota defense attorney Marc Kadella, it doesn’t matter if he believes in a client’s innocence. It only matters what the prosecutors can prove in court. This time, however, Marc suspects that his current client, Carl Fornich, may not be the serial killer who’s murdered numerous women in the Minneapolis–St. Paul area. If that’s true, it means that someone’s trying to frame Carl for the crimes, as the evidence against him is overwhelming and includes a murder weapon that cops recovered from his apartment. As Marc struggles to save his client, Gov. Theodore Dahlstrom, whose daughter was one of the victims, wants to ensure that Carl is put away for a long time. It’s clear that the author opted to tell a more realistic story than other legal thrillers. Both Marc and the narrative, for example, repeatedly point out the differences between real life and fiction, as when Marc tells Carl that a witness won’t break down on the stand: “This isn’t TV,” he says. Carstens largely succeeds in his goal, as there’s nothing glamorous about Marc’s decision to defend Carl. He loses a few clients due to the case’s notoriety, and he isn’t a wealthy man by any means. The financial side of the story, in fact, may be too real: Marc endlessly badgers Carl’s brother, Joe, for more money, even as Joe makes payments; he even tries to convince Carl to take a plea deal so that he can take advantage of a job offer. The novel offers very little of Marc’s story outside of his legal wranglings, and his few dates with Judge Margaret Tennant fail to punch up his muted personality. His fight, though, is a valiant one, and readers will be convinced without a doubt that Carl is someone’s patsy. Indeed, the book’s strongest scenes revolve around the character who’s framing Carl. The ending, too, won’t soon be forgotten.
A realistic portrayal of the law but one that’s light on drama.