UNDER OATH by Margaret McLean


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Former prosecutor McLean juggles a vast cast of characters in this courtroom drama, her second legal thriller, set in the crime-ridden Boston neighborhood of Charlestown.

Readers met quirky defense attorney Buddy Clancy in McLean’s first novel (Under Fire, 2011). This time Clancy is defending a not-so-innocent drug dealer and killer named Billy Malone, who prevails as the scourge of Charlestown. Feisty prosecutor Annie Fitzgerald, an Asian American despite her Irish name, has joined forces with Boston Homicide Det. Mike Callahan, whose career-long crusade to put Malone out of business and in prison has taken him to dark places. This time the pair have Charlestown’s resident bad boy up on a charge of killing a young artist named Trevor Shea, whose insightful and lifelike paintings take the viewer deep into the souls of his subjects. Trevor, who died after using some particularly potent heroin, left behind a collection of paintings depicting Charlestown’s more famous murder victims. Annie believes those paintings hold the key to solving Trevor’s death and races the clock to find more of them, as well as the key that links them together. But she has her work cut out for her: In addition to a garrulous and uncooperative juror who spills the jury’s secrets, she’s also battling the one person who should want to see the case against Malone succeed, Trevor’s brother Chris. While Annie tries to keep the prosecution’s witnesses from being picked off one-by-one, she finds that she cares almost too much about getting Malone off the streets once and for all. As for Clancy, he struggles with his representation of the repugnant Malone, but justifies his defense by claiming he’s doing it to ensure the sanctity of Malone’s constitutional rights. McLean writes trial scenes well and distinguishes herself by moving some of the action out of the courtroom. However, she also requires the reader to suspend common sense and swallow the premise that the present guardians of Boston’s justice system routinely behave like a bunch of squabbling kids fighting over whose turn it is at bat.

Melodramatic and implausible in places, but still entertaining.



Pub Date: April 24th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2813-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Forge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2012


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