A grave robbing leads to a courtroom battle between two Texas attorneys.
Twenty-one-year-old Alexis Stone, a student at the University of Texas at Austin, has been seeing Senator Talmadge Worthman on the sly for seven months, even though he’s reluctant to divorce before his re-election. After arguing with the senator, Alexis parties hard and dies, presumably of a stroke or heart attack, and she’s buried at Caring Oaks. Later, her disinterred body is found in a church sanctuary beneath an upside-down crucifix, the building desecrated by graffiti indicative of a satanic ritual. Alexis’ parents hire attorney Cal Connors to sue Caring Oaks for failure to provide adequate security at the cemetery. Known in legal circles as “The Lone Wolf,” Cal is a plaintiff’s dream, easily winning case after case. The son of a steelworker, he practices law with his daughter at their prestigious firm in Fort Worth. Most recently, he won a multimillion-dollar verdict against Samson Pharmaceuticals, makers of an antidepressant tied to a murder–suicide. The high-profile case attracts Leah Rosen, an investigative reporter for Texas Matters, who’s suspicious that several of Cal’s latest victories have been against drug companies accused of “manufacturing” clinical test data. Defending Caring Oaks in the civil suit is attorney Jace Forman, whose son Matt was with Alexis the night she died, possibly of foul play. In the well-plotted tale, the author adeptly explores the complex interrelationships among politicos, the media, and various legal and law enforcement professionals. There are a number of thriller chestnuts, too: a 40-something, married senator having the aforementioned illicit fling with a young lovely; a hungry reporter intent on cementing her reputation with a cutting exposé; a flashy, ethically challenged attorney who’ll stop at nothing to win; and a hardworking father who wants to renew ties with his estranged son. Among the motley cast of characters, no one stands out in the center of the action, so the suspense is minimal. Most intriguing is image-conscious Cal, supremely confident in his black Stetson, bolo tie and ostrich-skin boots, despite his unconventional, possibly emotionally incestuous relationship with daughter, Christine. The connection between the title and the narrative is a bit unclear, and a courtroom confession doesn’t quite ring true, but it’s nothing to sink the narrative. Overall, it reads like the first in a series, boding well for potential future installments with further development and greater focus.
Well-crafted with an authentic Southwestern setting, despite missing a compelling central character.