``The best defense is a good story,'' Vietnam vet/lawyer hero Mark Brennan obsessively tells himself. The disintegration of Brennan's own ``story'' through his involvement with a sex killing makes a painfully focused one for Busch (Harry and Catherine, 1990, etc.). Brennan's client, tiny Estella Pritchett, is accused of strangling almost-divorced radio-station owner Larry Ziegler during a bout of rough sex. Brennan plans to defend Estella by arguing that Ziegler's abusive behavior caused her to flash back to her abused childhood and strike out to defend herself. But he knows that Estella wasn't really defending herself: she'd already tied Ziegler to the bed at the Stone's Throw Motel--the same bed she's begun to use for her increasingly dangerous liaisons with Brennan. Drawn as he is to Estella, Brennan--already bedeviled by his memories of bombing runs over Vietnam, his capture, interrogation, torture, escape, and return to the US as frontman for the 1968 Democratic convention (he met his wife Rochelle, an antiwar protester, during a Chicago demonstration), and strung out by disturbing revelations about his son and daughter and an unreasoning fear of a visiting journalist who wants to write about a war memorial Rochelle's urged on their upstate New York town- -is ready to crack, and his conduct of Estella's trial becomes his last desperate defense of himself. A constricted tale of self-destructive love that's also one of the most original trial novels in years.