Sardonic Frisco attorney Michael Daley defends a popular priest against a murder charge.
Mike Daley (Final Verdict, 2003, etc.), back for a fifth outing, takes his monthly confession and follow-up lunch with old friend and one-time fellow seminarian Ramon Aguirre; Mike spent a short time in the priesthood before settling into a legal career, while Father Ramon has become a benevolent fixture in the Mission District. Mike shares news of significant other (and law partner and ex-wife) Rosie in her recovery from breast cancer; Ramon shares his sadness over the apparent suicide of parishioner Maria Conception, a workaholic lawyer and recent divorcée who, at the time of her death, was prosecuting the local archdiocese in a high-profile sexual harassment lawsuit. The evening after lunch together, Mike is stunned when Ramon calls and asks for help: he’s been arrested for Maria’s murder. Problems pile up even before they get to trial. Ramon is full of secrets about his relationship with Maria, and Mike learns them one uncomfortable piece at a time: Ramon and Maria were once lovers, Maria was pregnant when she died, and Ramon may have been the father (albeit via artificial insemination). The archdiocese has its own attorneys, the very corporate Quinn and Shanahan, who want the maverick Mike off the case. Chances of them putting Ramon’s interests ahead of the Church’s are slim, and they remain in a constant tug-of-war with Mike. Circumstantial evidence looks bad for Ramon, but Mike finds a handful of suspects with motive at local restaurant Eduardo’s Latin Palace. Maria was having an affair with owner Eduardo Lopez, who was also stepping out with hostess Mercedes Trujillo. Learning of his dalliances, Eduardo’s wife Vicki swore revenge. Maria’s client in the suit against the diocese comes forward with vital evidence—and is suspiciously killed before she can testify.
Siegel’s dialogue crackles with pace and authenticity. His brisk narrative offers a nonstop barrage of cynical asides to the reader—not to every taste.