A sordid divorce case leads to violence and an explosive courtroom trial.
The latest Florida-based legal thriller by Mills (The Objector, 2016, etc.) begins with a confrontation all too familiar in the litigious 21st century: an acrimonious divorce. Dr. Stan Jacoby makes an unexpected return home from a golfing vacation to surprise his wife of seven years, Karen, with an expensive gift. Relations have been tense between them lately, since Karen discovered affairs Stan had been carrying on. Turnabout becomes fair play: when he gets back home, he walks in on her in flagrante delicto with another man. Mutually incensed, they proceed to court, where Karen is represented by divorce attorney Beth Mancini, who quickly comes to enjoy her client’s tart tongue and friendly nature. When Beth asks Karen what traits she desires in her next husband, she replies: “I want him to be closer to my age. He doesn’t need to be as rich as Stan, but I still want financial security. And most importantly, he can’t be an asshole, like Stan.” The two take a break from legal tensions at Karen’s beach cottage, where they’re confronted by an armed, masked attacker they naturally assume is Stan. In the resulting criminal trial, long-suppressed secrets from both sides of the aisle get dragged into the open. As in his previous novel, Mills effectively moves his plot along—this is a genuine page-turner despite sometimes-pedestrian writing on the line-by-line level. Two of the tale’s atmospheric staples, the Florida setting and the give-and-take of a courtroom, are confidently, vividly realized throughout. Mills is especially adept at capturing a sense of place, no mean feat even in a state as oft-chronicled as Florida. The natural, unforced picture he paints of the sometimes-spiky, uneven friendship between Karen and Beth is the most memorably written strand of the story and makes the tense, final-act revelations and plot twists feel grounded. The climactic courtroom sequences are well-served by the author’s experience in the Florida legal world; they not only feel entirely believable, but crackle with dramatic energy as well. The tricks of those scenes—unexpected rulings from the bench, surprise revelations on the witness stand, etc.—should be familiar to any reader who’s seen a Law & Order repeat on TV, but Mills makes them his own.
A gripping legal thriller pitting a cheating husband against a cheating wife.