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A convoluted and overlong second legal thriller from big-time, San Francisco-based trial lawyer Martel (Partners, 1988). Seth Cameron, a hard-charger and moneymaker, lands a position at a big San Francisco law firm, where senior partner Anthony Treadwell sees him as a threat and sets out to destroy him. Overworked and self-medicated (booze, uppers, and downers), Cameron is an easy target. Treadwell forces him take on the case of Elena Barton, who believes negligence was involved in her husband's death in the crash of an Air Force bomber. But Treadwell and Barton's father (a US senator with defense-industry ties) in fact want the case sandbagged. They bully Cameron to stall, he misses the deadline for filing her complaint, and Treadwell has his opening: He fires Cameron, who ends up at a small law firm, angry and unfulfilled. He gets a chance at redemption, though, when Barton convinces him to bring suit against the manufacturer of the plane's faulty canopy. Initially, Cameron believes that the Air Force is engaged in a cover-up, but he realizes that much more is at stake when two potentially damaging witnesses for his case are murdered and his own life is threatened. Up to this point, Martel's story has been workmanlike enough, if hardly sizzling, but it grinds to a halt with a long, numbing trial section. Treadwell is defending attorney for the canopy manufacturer, and soon after the proceedings start it's obvious that Cameron is in trouble--some witnesses change their testimony, others reveal evidence damaging to his case. Cameron's strategy? He spends 50 pages bickering with Treadwell, baiting witnesses, and angering the judge. Somehow, he also finds time to discover a conspiracy involving Barton's father, an illegal holding company, and a renegade Air Force general--but he's light-years behind the reader. Occasionally tense, but bombast and lawyerly histrionics can't compensate for the lack of a believable plot.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1995
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Pocket