A pair of court employees can hold onto their jobs for another year—if only they can hide the news of their boss’s death for 24 hours.
Even though money is tight, employees in the chambers of the New York County Courthouse are still guaranteed their paychecks till the end of the year if the judge they work for dies. When Judge Alvin Canter succumbs to a heart attack on the morning of New Year’s Eve, the timing couldn’t be worse for his secretary, Carol Scilingo, or his law clerk, Tom Carroway, for whom money is especially tight. But if only Judge Canter died on New Year’s Day instead, they’d both be taken care of for another crucial year—time to dig out of their financial holes and maybe come together for keeps as a couple. So Tom’s idea of concealing the judge’s death till the next day seems perfectly logical and even—considering how deserted the courthouse is on the last day of the year—plausible. As soon as you stop to think more than Tom and Carol allow themselves to do, however, you realize what a harebrained scheme it is, full of holes and dependent on good timing, good luck and the good will of a motley cast—from floating court officer Foxx, Carol’s ex-boyfriend, to Court Officers Union president, Bobby Werkman, to collection agent Dominic McGlinchy, an ex-pug who works for the gambler Tom owes eight large—not likely to be brimming with goodwill even during the holiday season. Slowly, methodically, excruciatingly, Egan shows his heroes’ plan spinning out of control in a classic illustration of the law of unintended consequences.
A crystalline noir nightmare built on the premise that yes, things can always, always, always get worse.