Bay Area lawyer Dismas Hardy’s first starring role since The First Law (2003) tackles a controversial subject: the independent contractors making a killing in Iraq.
Even though he was defended by hotshot attorney Aaron Washburn, it’s no wonder that Evan Scholler was convicted of murdering Ron Nolan in 2005. The two men had been close in Baghdad: Scholler an ex-cop National Guard lieutenant whose unit was deployed to Iraq with no clear mission, Nolan a contractor for Allstrong Security who inveigled the unit into accompanying his hefty cash pickups. But their friendship shattered when Nolan, having seduced Scholler’s ex-girlfriend Tara Wheatley back in the States, provoked an ambush that decimated Scholler’s group and left him with a brain injury. When he finally learned the depth of Nolan’s perfidy, Scholler vowed to kill him, and all the evidence indicates that he did. Three years after Washburn’s unsuccessful defense, Charlie Bowen, the attorney preparing Scholler’s appeal, vanished. Now, after six months, he’s been declared incompetent to file the appeal, which has been assigned to Hardy. After sitting out most of the opening 300 pages, Hardy settles down to sift through reams of documents, most of them damning. Eventually he notices a sinister pattern: Several minor figures associated with the case (an ex-SEAL with Allstrong, an Iraqi middleman, Charlie Bowen’s suspicious wife) have died violently, leaving behind no evidence of who killed them. Was Scholler framed after all? Of course he was—and although it’s pretty obvious who did the job and why, it’s a pleasure watching Hardy pick up the scattered pieces and fit them together.
Sturdy wartime intrigue, subpar courtroom drama, little mystery, much righteous (and infectious) anger. A great case, but a decidedly mixed verdict.