Twelve years after a Kids-for-Cash scheme ends the childhood of two boys, Philadelphia lawyer Bennie Rosato must defend one of them on a charge of murdering the other.
It’s nothing but a childhood fight, really, but the judge throws the book at both Jason Lefkavick, who draws 90 days in a juvie prison, and Richie Grusini, who gets off with 60 days because his uncle, Declan Mitchell, was a state trooper. Bennie, responding to the pleas of Jason’s father, Matthew, hikes out to Mountaintop, Pennsylvania, in hopes of springing Jason, who hasn’t been properly advised of his right to counsel. In the course of her investigation, the famously abstemious Bennie falls for Declan, and their liaison gets her fired just as her legal wrangling would have borne fruit—and saved scores of other young victims whose families won’t find out till years afterward that the judge has a financial interest in the prison he’s kept stocked to the brim. Fast-forward to the present, when Jason’s been found clasping a bloody knife a few feet away from Richie, whose throat has been slit in an alley minutes after the old enemies had a well-witnessed fight in a Philadelphia bar. Bennie, who’s felt all this time that her fling with Declan ended up tossing Jason to the wolves, is convinced that she has to defend him, even though he refuses to get on board with the self-defense strategy she methodically pursues as her cross-examination picks holes in the testimony of one witness after another. And then, as things seem to be looking up for Jason, a bombshell makes them look much worse for Bennie.
As so often for the firm of Rosato & DiNunzio (Betrayed, 2014, etc.), the ending, logical but woefully underprepared, is a serious disappointment. Fans eager to see Bennie’s courtroom mettle won’t care a bit.