A JURY OF HER PEERS by Jean Hanff Korelitz


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 A monstrous-conspiracy wolf in legal-intrigue clothing. Despite rejection by her legal-eagle father, Sybylla Muldoon has never had any second thoughts about her job as a Manhattan public defender. But now, as she prepares her defense of a street person known only as Trent, she's tested more sorely than ever. Four witnesses saw Trent attack Amanda Barrett without provocation as she got off her school bus, slashing Amanda's face and belly but leaving her alive to testify along with all the others. The only defense is insanity--an obvious defense to anybody who's dealt with the patently schizophrenic Trent--but Trent won't let Sybylla plead him insane, and a mysterious implant the doctors at Bellevue removed from his underarm holds out a slim hope for another defense, even as Trent, sans implant, seems to recover miraculously from his delusions and is pronounced competent to stand trial. But the old friend Sybylla asks to put the implant through its pharmacological paces is murdered, the implant disappears, and the trial commences with only Sam Larkin, Legal Aid's dishy newest member, on Sybylla's side. Fans of courtroom drama will be rubbing their hands in anticipation by this point, but first-novelist Korelitz throws a curveball right by them, bringing the trial to a brusquely unexpected end and unveiling a deep-dyed conspiracy that links Dermot Muldoon, now conveniently nominated to the Supreme Court; his old crony Robert Winston, a trial consultant with a uniquely holistic approach to jury selection; Trent himself; and who knows how many other homeless New Yorkers. It would be unkind to give away any more of the plot, but it's fair to warn that Korelitz's clever, unbelievable conspiracy makes her novel more schizoid than Trent himself. The wild improbabilities allow a stinging critique of the jury system that lifts this above other conspiracy novels to some kind of prophetic truth. Paging Oliver Stone.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-517-70061-1
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1996


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