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STATE V. JUSTICE by Gallatin Warfield


by Gallatin Warfield

Pub Date: Nov. 19th, 1992
ISBN: 0-446-51688-0

Despite a publicity blitz unusual for a first novel (an initial printing of 50,000), this tale of how an open-and-shut case against a convicted pedophile for the murder of a Russian diplomat's son runs up against the defense attorney's maniacal hatred of the upright D.A. doesn't give Scott Turow much competition. The murder, not far from Camp David, seems unusually unmysterious: within hours, the FBI pulls in a drifter identified as T.I. Justice, whose Kansas conviction for a similar killing was reversed on a technicality, and turns him over to State's Attorney Gardner Lawson. But despite the evidence linking Justice to the crime, Gardner has to contend with the refusal of the Russians to allow an exploratory autopsy, the suspicious interference of the Feds, a disturbing lack of hard physical evidence placing Justice at the scene, and—most tiresomely—slick defense attorney Kent King's nonstop opposition to even the most mundane procedures. (King files six pretrial motions and objects eight times during Gardner's opening statement.) Meanwhile, as Gardner's off-the-books investigator Sgt. Joe Brown races King's ruthless henchman Bruno Calvano for new evidence, and low-level State Department spook Bob Hamilton, unbeknownst to Gardner, launches an investigation of his own into the Russians' behavior, Gardner begins to suspect that King, though nasty as can be, is deliberately passing up opportunities to torpedo the prosecution's case for good. Is he lying in wait for a climactic blow, or is he trying for some reason to blow his own case? Russian diplomats, interagency rivalries, and a tooth-and-nail legal battle between wily sworn enemies—all these sure-fire hooks get neutralized by Warfield's flatly moralized characters, one-dimensional plot complications, absent-minded handling of subplots, and distaste for genuine mystery.