SILENT SON by Gallatin Warfield

SILENT SON

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KIRKUS REVIEW

It's not easy to carve out a niche in the increasingly crowded field of legal intrigue, and you have to admire the ingenuity of Warfield's approach: a courtroom mystery with no mystery. Instead, the emphasis is on the endless tactical battles that erupt when Maryland State's Attorney Gardner Lawson (first seen in State v. Justice, 1992) has to put his own son on the stand as the only witness to a brutal double murder. Eight-year-old Granville Lawson saw the two men who gunned down elderly shopkeepers Henry and Addie Bowers, but he has repressed all memory of the incident, and his father's frantic solicitude for the traumatized boy wars with his determination to make Gran finger the killers. It's not that Lawson has no idea who he's after: A telltale footprint identifies one of the perps as local thug Roscoe Miller, and a paper trail leads with almost indecent haste from Miller to Wellington Starke IV, an overaged senior at the tony prep school where Miller used to tend the grounds. But Gardner knows this evidence will never hold up in court. As the Mephistophelean defense lawyer representing Miller and the Starkes' equally vile hired gun fight extradition for Starke, arrange for an incompetent judge who sets a walkaway bail, and chuckle about the mistakes overwrought Gardner is making, the prosecutor's own ex-wife is refusing him visitation rights to Gran, planning to spirit the boy off to Switzerland and interrupting the grand jury proceedings with an emergency custody hearing. Looks like Miller and Starke will walk unless Gran recovers his memory and takes the stand. A legal thriller for lawyers, maybe, or for people who'll take Warfield's infuriatingly dropped subplots -- the negligible roles played by Gardner's supportive lover and King's sinister police informant, the toothless threats against Gran when the suspects break free of surveillance -- as triumphs of realism over the requirements of popular entertainment.

Pub Date: June 6th, 1994
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Warner