THE BEST DEFENSE by Kate Wilhelm


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Defiantly barefoot Oregon lawyer Barbara Holloway (Death Qualified, 1991) calls a truce with her lawyer father and buys pantyhose and a proper courtroom jacket in order to defend battered wife Paula Kennerman, accused of killing her six-year-old daughter and setting fire to the women's safe house at Canby Ranch. The Dodgson family, the ranch's wealthy neighbors, are baying for the child killer's blood -- a demand that dovetails neatly with the shrill, troglodyte editorial stance of Richard Dodgson's weekly paper -- and it looks as if they have Paula's bright, boyish public defender, Bill Spassero, and her private-duty physician in their pockets. Enter Barbara and her tattered legions (Paula's sister Lucille Reiner, Barbara's newly supportive father, a trio of grad-student researchers), seeking to get Bill to withdraw from the case so they can mount a defense that will raise the specter of reasonable doubt and impeach Paula's abusive husband, Jack, the hysterically bullying Dodgsons and their spies and toadies, and the nationwide antiabortion, anti-birth control, anti-feminist lobby. Sprawling and overlong -- especially the trial sequences -- but ultimately rousing, considering how much Barbara's fighting for and how much it matters.

Pub Date: June 27th, 1994
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: St. Martin's