For over 30 years, Jack Skinner has been a criminal defense lawyer in southern Alabama, but now he’s on the skids. Three ex-wives have bled him so dry he can’t pay his loyal secretary Rose, let alone the rent. Just two things keep him going: the love of courtroom confrontations, and the whiskey in the bottom drawer. When new client Brad Caine offers five grand in cash for expenses, Jack grabs it; nor is he fazed by the diamond necklace Brad wants to unload. Two days later, it’s revealed that the necklace belonged to Haddie Charles, a rich old lady murdered in her home, and Brad is charged with the crime, though he claims convincingly to have been set up, and Jack’s gut also tells him he’s innocent, the prosecution’s case being entirely circumstantial. Still, Jack has more on his plate than a high-profile murder; his drug-addicted “baby girl” Kelly, now 28, needs his help, much to the disgust of her older sister Becky, who believes Kelly’s drug habit is a reaction to Jack’s molesting her as a child—at one point even engages him in hand-to-hand combat. So it seems that while his many other equally seedy genre ancestors had a rock-bottom integrity, Jack may be the exception. By now it’s time for the trial, and Hollon largely lets the transcripts do the talking, which is okay until the Alice in Wonderland denouement turns courtroom procedures inside out.
Given the number of fat clues trial lawyer Hollon (The God File, 2002) scatters along the way, the surprise ending is hardly that. In all, a depressing, stereotype-heavy story, though it does move at a good clip.