A Florida lawyer has the chance to help a former client on trial for murder in Blair’s (College Football Etiquette, 2015, etc.) legal thriller set in the late 1970s.
Racial tension is a serious problem in Lincoln County, Florida, in 1979. So when cops arrest an African-American man, Lindsey Wilkens, for allegedly murdering a white, affluent car dealer, Arthur Burnside, it seems like a conviction is imminent. Lindsey’s wife, Marie, calls J.T. Lockman, the chief assistant in the Lincoln County public defender’s office. J.T. represented Lindsey years ago when he was accused of selling stolen tools that someone else discarded. The attorney was upset over losing that case and is confident now that Lindsey’s not a killer. Unfortunately, the police have Lindsey’s confession, which they forcibly coerced by using an electric cattle prod. J.T. works to get that confession tossed out and also notices discrepancies in the crime scene photos. There’s a strong Ku Klux Klan presence in the area, and its members are all but certain that Lindsey will receive the death penalty. One of the Klansmen is the cryptically named Nighthawk, whom J.T. and his fellow attorneys come to believe is the actual killer. They just have to match a face and name to the sobriquet—and some evidence, to boot. The author rigorously incorporates issues of race into the plot, which enhance the narrative without overwhelming it. Suspense, too, is in abundance: Nighthawk’s identity, as well as the fiendish Klan Wizard’s, remain unknown until the end. A surprising amount of the story takes place outside the courtroom; J.T. and his team meticulously investigate the case, but Lindsey is disappointingly absent for much of the novel’s latter half. J.T., though, is an engaging protagonist. Although he’s committed to a woman named Deena, the daughter of a wealthy local businessman, his eyes (and hands) perpetually wander to other women; however, his back story provides a convincing reason why he has “some kind of history” with “half the girls from the courthouse.”
A long but energetic tale that’s rife with drama and mystery, both in and out of the courtroom.