An overloaded legal thriller about a white collar criminal-turned-neophyte lawyer who tries to clear his dead father’s name, get his best friend out of jail, and survive as a first-year lawyer.
Billy Strobe is a hard-luck “Okie” who made it through a couple years of law school in California before getting caught up in a stock-market swindle with some of his richer classmates. They ratted him out and he took the prison time. While serving it, he undergoes the usual terrorizing by his fellow prisoners, though he’s able to placate their leader by offering to be his jailhouse lawyer. Billy bonds with a fellow Okie, Darryl Orton, whom Billy believes was framed for the murder he was convicted of. Amazingly enough, not only does Billy complete his law degree by correspondence, but the San Francisco firm Stanton and Snow offers him a job when he gets out of jail. Billy is no sooner a free man than he’s making a six-figure salary at S&S. Not being a guy who likes to rest on his laurels, he gives himself a few extra tasks on top of the usual massive workload of a first-year lawyer: get Darryl Orton out of jail and clear the name of his, Billy’s, own father, a renowned defense lawyer who, accused of corruption, committed suicide when Billy was younger. It almost sounds redundant to accuse Martel (The Alternate, 1999, etc.) of going too Grisham, but it’s so. The first hundred pages work just fine, with only Billy’s excessively and unbelievably cornpone narration getting in the way. But not long after Billy gets his job, Martel piles on an excess of soap-worthy plotlines that, unlike in similarly busy Grisham books, fail to contribute to a sense of urgency but merely add to the confusion.
Not content to let a potentially fascinating character tell his story, Martel refuses to leave well enough alone and ends up with about one-third of a good legal thriller.