San Francisco attorney Leo Maxwell (Lion Plays Rough, 2014, etc.) faces another round of all-in-the-family murder when his father, convicted years ago of killing his wife, gets a shot at another trial that could turn him free—or put him away for keeps.
Since he’s dead now, it’s impossible to tell why prosecutor Gary Coles failed to disclose evidence that Caroline Maxwell had what appears to be bruising sex with a man who clearly wasn’t her husband very shortly before she was beaten to death with her son’s baseball bat. But once the suppression of this evidence is ruled grounds for a new trial, Leo and his lawyer brother, Teddy, who’ve kept Lawrence Maxwell at a distance for 21 years, circle the wagons around him. The shooting that left Teddy brain-damaged five years ago (Bear Is Broken, 2013) rules out his active participation in the trial, but Leo’s determined to work with Nina Schuyler, the attorney assigned to the case. And the job promises steady work, since no sooner has Lawrence identified his ex–jail mate Russell Bell as a possible snitch who just might testify that Lawrence confessed the murder to him than Bell is shot to death, giving prosecutor Angela Crowder and the SFPD’s Detective Neil Shanahan not one but two more chances to convict Lawrence of first-degree murder. Dot Cooper, the nurse who’s been secretly engaged to Lawrence for 10 years, provides him with an alibi, but it’s far from certain how she and Lawrence will hold up under cross-examination, especially when one of them decides to go off script and raises even more problems for the defense.
Fans will be rewarded not by the solution, which is considerably more muddled than the mystery itself, but by some of the sharpest courtroom cut-and-thrust since Presumed Innocent (1986).