A powerhouse legal/action thriller--about an alcoholic lawyer defending outlaw bikers charged with murder-one--that roundly reflects the story-telling skills and commercial instincts that first-novelist Freedman evidently developed as director-writer of film and TV melodramas (Kansas City Bomber, Borderline, Night Gallery, etc.). Hero Will Alexander's wry, humane, energetic narration (intercut by action-oriented third-person passages) immediately earns our sympathy for this appealingly flawed 40-year-old: Santa Fe's top defense attorney, twice-divorced father of ten-year-old Claudia, whom he adores, high-strung Will is canned for excess drinking and womanizing by the law firm he founded--and then is told by Claudia's mom that she's moving to Seattle with Claudia. Hard knocks: but cushioned by a headline case that falls into Will's lap, the defense of down-and-dirty biker Lone Wolf and his three comrades, accused of the mutilation-murder of a local drug-dealer--and convicted by the press before trial. Hinging on some weird forensic evidence and on testimony of a whore the bikers raped, the likely outcome of the trial seesaws as the prosecution and Will--sated with self-doubt, drinking, and wenching--razzle-dazzle the jury; but the inevitable verdict comes in: guilty. Months later, however, the whore recants: her testimony was perjured, she claims, extorted by the police. Will, who's meanwhile been caring for Claudia and pursuing a hot affair, turns back to the case--only to see Lone Wolf swept up in a violent prison riot that Will is asked to mediate. And matters become complicated further when a stranger confesses to the crime, calling Will to West Virginia to meet him at a rousing snake-handling religious revival. But it all winds up back in the courtroom--and in a slam-bang ending. Will's incessant self-absorption begins to grate near the end, but, long before, the narrative's storm surge of courtroom duels, gritty crime action, twisty plotting, and technicolor characters has irrevocably swept the reader up in one of the most extravagantly entertaining thrillers of the year.