In Powell’s (Roxana’s Revolution, 2013, etc.) legal thriller, a judge known for administering harsh sentences suffers a punishment of his own.
Shortly after kidnappers grab Judge Walter McNeil in Washington, D.C., he wakes up in a small, windowless room. He suspects that the three men who took him want retribution for his judgments in past trials. Sure enough, they tell him at gunpoint that he must rule favorably on a defense attorney’s motions in an ongoing triple-murder case. The story then introduces the kidnappers—Leroy, Darnell, and Melvin—who all feel that the judge has somehow ruined their lives. They feed him drugs and repeatedly threaten his life and also imply that they have his teenage daughter Daphne, who disappeared four years ago. Before the ordeal is over, one of the kidnappers will die, and McNeil will go on trial for his murder. Attorney Amanda Perkins, formerly of D.C., now works in Colorado, where she finds herself in a unique position to help McNeil, even though the tyrannical judge earned her animosity in the past. Powell opens her novel with a bang, depicting the abduction almost as soon as the narrative begins. The story is impressive in the way it shifts readers’ sympathies; some may empathize with Leroy, for instance, because his mother died while he was incarcerated. However, Leroy’s progressively crueler treatment of the judge eventually reveals McNeil as another kind of victim. The trial, which takes up a large part of the novel, is thoroughly riveting. Powell depicts the examinations and cross-examinations of witnesses almost exclusively in dialogue; as a result, the lawyers’ rapid-fire questions and objections seem like a verbal gunfight. For the most part, Powell treats her characters as McNeil does defendants in his courtroom: those who are guilty of crimes or transgressions eventually get their comeuppance.
A gem of a legal thriller, full of plot twists and juicy secrets.