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A marginal Atlanta lawyer’s attempt to avenge his even more marginal college friend’s death leads him through some wildly improbable twists to something like redemption.

Two years after a disastrous fling with a client’s lover bounced him off his white-shoe firm’s fast track, Jack Hammond, “an unwanted expert on the damaged southern soul,” loses another client the worst way possible when his old tutor Doug Townsend is found dead of a drug overdose. But although Jack’s defended Doug many times on possession charges, he can’t believe Doug’s ever used fentanyl, and he knows Doug had a horror of needles like the one that supposedly killed him. If he was indeed murdered, the only clues to the perp seem to be a sheaf of photos of opera star Michele Sonnier, a troubled black beauty, found among Doug’s effects and the computer Doug used to hack into her wealthy husband Charles Ralston’s firm, Horizn [sic] Pharmaceuticals. Following this unlikely trail, Jack soon links raffish Doug to both members of the glittering couple—only to find that the mounting evidence of Horizn skullduggery (eight victims, all killed in a fiendishly untraceable way) has left no legal evidence at all, and that if Jack and his unlikely allies—another misfit hacker and a disgraced medical researcher—want to snatch that evidence from under Horizn’s suspicious noses, they’ll have to fight fire with fire. To reveal more about the plot would spoil several well-planted surprises among some comfortably familiar character types. Suffice it to say that Jack eventually rouses himself from some windy moralizing and plunges into an investigation-cum-romance as breathlessly entertaining as it is preposterous.

Less original than The Will (2001) but fleeter and more ambitious in a legal-gangbusters way that genre fans will find as irresistible as a call from the grave for revenge.

Pub Date: Feb. 17th, 2004
ISBN: 0-06-055551-3
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2004


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