FELONY MURDER by Joseph T. Klempner


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Debut legal thriller about the David-and-Goliath defense of a homeless man accused of robbing and murdering the police commissioner of New York City. Although nobody claims that Joey Spadafino tried to kill Commissioner Edward Wilson, he had the bad luck to have Wilson suffer a fatal heart attack after he pulled a knife on him--a legal basis for the charge of felony murder. But Joey tells Dean Abernathy, his court-appointed attorney, that he never saw Wilson alive, no matter what his signed confession says. Dean believes the confession rather than his client--until he realizes that the confession itself is a forgery; nurse Janet Killian, the leading witness against his client, is lying; and Wilson may have died from a toxic dose of a drug never prescribed for him. For every step forward, though, there's a step back. The police have thrown a cordon around the witnesses Dean wants to examine; a second key witness has vanished after refusing to corroborate Janet Killian's bogus story; Wilson's body has been conveniently cremated before Dean can request a second autopsy. Though the friendly prosecutor keeps offering more and more lenient plea-bargains, Joey Spadafino, languishing on Rikers Island, won't plead guilty even to misdemeanor robbery. And when Dean, having gotten the real story out of Janet Killian, goes with Janet to the FBI, the two are plunged into as much danger as Joey, who's so scared of his fellow inmates that he's asked for another hellish stretch in solitary confinement. Against Dean's urging, Joey insists on his day in court--if only he and his lawyer can live till then. For four years now you've been hearing that every new legal thriller is just like John Grisham. Well, Klempner really does write just like Grisham, warts and all (cartoonish heroes and villains, unnecessary legal detail, an incredible conspiracy, a flat-out irresistible narrative pull). St. Martin's should sell this first novel with a money-back guarantee.

Pub Date: Sept. 11th, 1995
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's