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TRIAL BY FIRE by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg

TRIAL BY FIRE

By Nancy Taylor Rosenberg

Pub Date: Jan. 8th, 1996
ISBN: 0-525-93767-6
Publisher: Dutton

 A Dallas prosecutor finds herself on the other side of the aisle when she's arrested for the arson murder of her parents--in Rosenberg's latest lawyer-in-distress scenario. Sixteen years ago, Stella Cataloni's Houston house was burned down with her parents inside; she herself was scarred and traumatized in the course of rescuing her kid brother, Mario. Now, Stella, who often wondered what her old boyfriend, Tom Randall, knew about the blaze, is delighted when Tom, long a fugitive, surfaces in Houston. But Tom accuses Stella of setting the fire, and just when it seems Stella's called in every marker to keep from getting indicted, Tom provides the strongest argument in favor of her arrest by getting murdered. Hounded by Holly Oppenheimer, a resentful former colleague from the Dallas DA's office who's now taken root in Houston, and abandoned by her estranged husband Brad Emerson (who tries to bail Stella out of jail by offering her peanuts on her alimony petition), our suspect can't count on anybody except Dallas County investigator Brenda Anderson, who doesn't see why she shouldn't fill her days trying to exonerate her boss, and Sam Weinstein, the divorce attorney who offers solace of a more intimate kind. Bolstered by her stalwart buddies and the typical Rosenberg heroine's unfaltering self-righteousness, Stella links the fire to the earlier collapse of a shoddily constructed day-care center and a kickback scam that just may have been run by her uncle Clem, a Dallas cop who's always hated her. When Clem, like everybody else in Dallas, turns against her, she's left at the mercy of ``the most contemptible human being who ever lived.'' Better than her recent California Angel (1995), but not up to Rosenberg's best potboilers: The ramshackle plot unreels with more intensity than logic, as the characters mug and dash from one set-piece to the next with all the conviction of politicians at a smoker. (First printing of 125,000; Literary Guild selection; Mystery Guild main selection)