OPEN AND SHUT by Milton J. with Ron Winslow Silverman
Kirkus Star


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What would you do if you learned your husband had been molesting your teenage daughter for six years? Maybe you'd do what Norma Winters did--hire a hit man to kill him, for a fee of ten thousand dollars. But Norma made one mistake. She hired a cop. To defense attorney Silverman, it seemed that the State of California had her nailed for solicitation to commit murder: taped conversations, a cash downpayment made to the ""hit man,"" and a compelling motive. But the more Silverman dug into the case, the stranger it became. Norma, for example, had lost 60 pounds in four months, largely by taking amphetamine-laced ""diet pills""--and had a tendency to walk into walls. Her personality had changed, too. Normally passive and dependent, she had turned aggressive in the months before her arrest and opened her own business. Nor did Norma's behavior with the ""hit man"" make much sense: she helped set up an elaborate plan to ambush her husband on his way to his job--but on a night when she knew he wouldn't be working, and on a road she knew he didn't normally take. Then there were those attempts at hypnosis by her brother-in-law that Norma and her daughter laughed off at the time. . . . Through painstaking investigation of the facts and consultation with psychiatric experts, Silverman began to piece together Norma's defense. She had indeed solicited the murder of her husband, he concluded, but under the influence of posthypnotic suggestion; she lacked the ""specific intent"" required to commit the crime. Stranger than fiction, but he convinced the jury and Norma walked out. With the investigation phase complete and the ""mystery"" solved, Silverman's narrative flags a bit in its blow-by-blow account of the trial. But, all in all, absorbing.

Pub Date: May 26th, 1981
Publisher: Norton