Email this review


Routine by-the-numbers legal procedural by one of the better craftsmen of the genre. Freedman (Key Witness, 1997, etc.) applies his formula—burned-out legal eagle takes a case that no one else wants—to the luxurious California suburb of Montecito, where bubbly 14-year-old Emma Lancaster is snatched out of her bedroom by a mysterious intruder. Her father, Doug, the somewhat boorish owner of local television stations, and her slightly ditsy society mom, Glenna, are horrified—especially when Emma’s rotting corpse appears in a nearby stream. The cops are mystified until the dead girl’s key chain turns up in the backseat of a Porsche belonging to Joe Allison, a womanizing local newscaster who works at one of Doug’s TV stations. Only circumstantial evidence ties Allison to the crime, until the girl’s friends reveal that Emma was pregnant when murdered and that Allison is the likely father. With everyone in southern California screaming for Allison’s head, Luke Garrison, a former crusading Santa Barbara district attorney who lost his career to the guilt he suffered after he got an innocent man executed, reluctantly agrees to defend Allison. Garrison, with the help of Riva Montoya, his spunky girlfriend (and former drug-dealer’s moll), comes to believe that Allison just might have been framed, especially when the ex-D.A. himself begins receiving mysterious death threats. It’s no surprise when Garrison rallies and successfully acquits his client. Freedman’s contrived plotting, so easily forgiven in his better books, seems trite here, as the villain conveniently unhinges, stalking Garrison with a high-powered rifle, and leaving pistol-packing Riva the chance to save the day. Still, despite a jocular, clichÇd narrative in which “news . . . spreads like wildfire,” and more than one character “goes ballistic,— Freedman on an average day is usually better than most. (Literary Guild/Mystery Guild selection)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-525-94425-7
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1998


FictionBIRD’S-EYE VIEW by J.F. Freedman
by J.F. Freedman
FictionKEY WITNESS by J.F. Freedman
by J.F. Freedman
FictionHOUSE OF SMOKE by J.F. Freedman
by J.F. Freedman