The New York County Courthouse at 60 Centre St. becomes the site of a world-class legal and extralegal struggle for a priceless group of antiquities.
Three years ago, the battle between the Earl of Leinster and the governments of Croatia and Hungary over ownership of the Salvus Treasure ended in a mistrial after Judge Oliver Johnstone’s courtroom was disrupted by a pair of masked thieves who made off with a particularly pricey piece of evidence, a silver urn. Now the disputants are back in court, and Judge Linda Conover, Johnstone’s former law clerk, has been asked to hear the case. Everyone, it seems, has a stake in the matter, beyond the obvious disputants. Gary Martin, the court officer paralyzed from the waist down by a gunshot from one of the thieves, is convinced that the urn is still in the building. His fellow officers, Foxx and McQueen, have ideas of their own. Custodian Ivan Zoltar is getting played by his fellow cleaner Jessima. Jessima’s ex-lover Damien Wheatley is determined to discredit Judge Conover, who’s hiding a secret of her own. And neither national government is above dirty tricks. When the motives of all these interested parties, which range from avarice to revenge to national pride to something altogether darker, collide, the results are so tangled, and sometimes so confusing, that they require a whole series of denouements to unravel.
Not as brilliantly focused as Egan’s nightmarish debut (Midnight, 2013) but just as welcome in its more ambitious, wide-ranging way.