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THE EXPERT by Lee Gruenfeld



Pub Date: April 2nd, 1998
Publisher: Dutton

A labored, overlong tale of computer espionage that finds a manufacturer charged with treason for selling a computer chip--supposedly an encryption device the experts agree can't possibly exist--to the Chinese. Attorney Rebecca Verona is forced by the sleazy-but-successful senior partner of her law firm to defend the president of Tera-Tech, James Perrein, a man she dated until she learned he was just using her to get a Taiwan import license. On top of that, the prosecutor for the government is David Zuckerman, whom Rebecca was sleeping with until he found out about her and Perrein. And as if that's not enough ""conflict,"" Gruenfeld (The Halls of Justice, 1996, etc.) stretches credibility further by making the defense's expert witness yet another someone with a reason to hate the now-accused James Perrein. It seems Tera-Tech lured away scientist Radovan Terescu's ace assistant, a Vietnamese who was privy to Terescu's key discovery regarding how to make the encryption chip a reality. (Perrein was also having an affair with Mrs. Terescu. . . .) So, if all agree that the technology for making such a sophisticated chip is years away, how did the government get one? Why won't they let the defense see it? How is Terescu to make an expert testimony without access to the evidence? And where is ""Deep Silicon"" getting the inside information that he's leaking to the prosecution? Gruenfeld mires his otherwise interesting premise in a morass of wearying explicatory narrative, going on for pages explaining computer-chip wizardry, legal maneuvers, and the role of expert witnesses. Meanwhile, the plot inches along with minimal suspense. Gruenfeld's been a witness in high-tech cases himself, but, here, his obvious expertise in computer technology goes for naught.