An engrossing but frustrating legal procedural by Taylor (A Trial of Generals, 1981; Trail of the Fox, 1980) that traces attorney Michael Dowd's defense of LuAnn Fratt when the New York socialite was tried for the murder of her estranged husband. Fratt was an enigmatic figure, her life seemingly a shallow round of visits to benefit balls and beauty salons. In a call to 911, and during later police interrogations, Fratt freely admitted that at about 2:30 in the morning of November 2, 1988, she left her million-dollar East Side co-op, an eight-inch kitchen knife in her Vuitton bag, walked a block or two to the studio apartment occupied by Charles Kennedy Poe Fratt since the marital breakup, and stabbed the wealthy executive to death. Afterward, Fratt appeared preternaturally calm, evincing no tears, no excitement, no hysterics. During the course of pretrial conversations, however, she confided to Dowd that her husband had raped her once in the months preceding his death and again on the night of the murder. The lawyer decided to base his case on self-defense and to explain Fratt's impassivity as a manifestation of ""rape trauma syndrome."" Psychiatric experts were called to testify, though the presiding judge rigorously limited their testimony. As an array of prosecution witnesses pointed out discrepancies in the socialite's story, things did not look promising for Fratt or Dowd. The jury, however, decided in the defendant's favor. And it is in detailing this final phase of the trial that Taylor nearly destroys the impact of his narrative: He fails to provide any indication of just what elements in Dowd's strategy prompted the jury's decision. This gap in continuity leaves the reader perplexed and uncertain as to whether or not Dowd's unconventional defense may have been mainly a gimmick. Overall, though, involving and provocative.