A Los Angeles lawyer defends a professional safecracker accused of murder in Rucker’s debut legal thriller.
Criminal defense attorney Bobby Earl gladly takes a case when the public defender is unavailable, especially after a judge assures him that he’ll be paid. Sydney Seabrooke is facing a murder charge, and evidence points to his presence at a Chinese restaurant where the body of LA cop Terry Horgan was found. Seabrooke professes his innocence, but the fact that he was at the scene of the crime in order to break into a safe doesn’t look good. But Earl is inclined to believe Seabrooke, who says he was pulling the job for bondsman Johnny Aradano in exchange for bail for an earlier, unrelated arrest. It also turns out that Horgan wasn’t an upstanding officer; although the cop didn’t own the restaurant, he did own the safe inside it, and Earl suspects that its contents—bulky stacks of cash—may have been the spoils of Horgan’s involvement with drug dealers. Before the trial begins, there’s a break-in at Earl’s office, and jailhouse snitch Jake “The Snake” Snyder claims that Seabrooke confessed to the murder. The attorney’s investigation into the seedy world of drugs provokes some dangerous people, but he still hopes to find a witness for the defense—or maybe even a killer. Rucker’s muted thriller steers clear of convention; there’s no glaring piece of evidence, for example, that guarantees that Earl will save his client. The story acknowledges its realism with humor, including nods to the TV series Law & Order (“most young women DA’s had chosen to emulate the female television prosecutors on ‘Law and Order,’ which meant exuding a toughness just short of announcing ‘mine are bigger than yours’ ”). Earl faces some other hurdles before and during the trial: he unintentionally irks television personality Thomas Glass (aka “The Thumb,” who has a knack for tipping scales of opinion one way or the other), and someone else threatens and takes a few shots at the lawyer. Overall, Earl’s a shrewd, worthy protagonist, surrounded by exceptional characters, including reliable investigator Manny Munoz and second-chair district attorney Samantha Price.
This novel certainly doesn’t skimp on twisty plot turns, but retains an understated, authentic approach to the law.