A first novel about an up-and-coming southern lawyer whose involvement in a case of serial murder makes him see just how much he's sacrificed for his high-profile firm--all of which shows mainly that, yes, they read John Grisham down south too. Clifford Nielson has given up his marriage, his family life, and his freedom for his partnership at Ramwell and Bosely and his rapacious boss Lewis Sherwood, perhaps the most famous criminal lawyer in the US. But it isn't enough, as Cliff finds when R&B is called on to assist in the defense of Travis Keith, the alleged Resort Ripper who's been killing and mutilating single women on vacation. Keith insists he's innocent, but a database that Cliff's doped out places him on the scene of virtually every one of the Ripper's 13 murders. What to do? In between tender interludes with head paralegal Kara Phillips, a female character who seems held over from another generation (``Kara was incredible that night. Sex with her was always fantastic, but this was the best time ever, with the possible exception of our first time in Montana''), Cliff ties one John F. Adamson in to the same locations, then realizes with horror that Adamson is actually--Lewis Sherwood. Is Sherwood really the Resort Ripper? Will Cliff be able to keep on Sherwood's trail without giving himself away? Will he be decoyed by the equity partnership Sherwood's dangling in front of him? What will he do if R&B closes ranks against him and freezes him out? Don't expect any serious treatment of any of these questions in the hundred pages left to run. Earnest and amateurish, especially in its falling action.