ABANDONED HEART by Richard Parrish


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 Parrish puts his Joshua Rabb series (Nothing But the Truth, 1995, etc.) on hold for an equally stolid two-act legal melodrama tracing the fallout from a most heinous rape. Act One begins when lace-curtain Boston transplant Mary Kate O'Dwyer takes 16-year-old working girl Donna Alvarez into her home in Scottsdale, planning to adopt her legally. Before the final papers can be filed, Donna's former pimp tracks her down in Arizona and peddles her to sex-starved lawyer Philip Wilkott and his rough-trade lover Grant Felsen, who break into Kate's house and rape both Donna and Kate's three-year-old daughter Jennifer. When preliminary tests indicate that Wilkott's infected Jennifer with the AIDS virus, Kate's boyfriend goes wild, beating Wilkott's name out of the pimp. DNA testing proves that Wilkott was the rapist, but Wilkott's well-connected father gets the case thrown out on a technicality. These early scenes, though marred by nonstop preaching and some intolerable dialogue, work hard to whip up sympathy for the decent heroes, whose thirst for justice is thwarted at every turn by the law. It's in Act Two, which begins when Kate decides to take the law into her hands by killing Wilkott, that things go wrong, and not just for Kate. Kate's plans don't pan out exactly as she'd hoped (Parrish inexplicably throws away his biggest scene here); Wilkott Sr. presses for her prosecution anyway; and suddenly everybody in the legal system who'd been ganging up on her before turns a smiling face to her. The irredeemable villains place themselves beyond the pale by their racist, anti-Semitic, anti-feminist slurs, and the potentially explosive legal debate trails off in a series of skirmishes that show justice rousingly if not very convincingly triumphing over the law. There'll even be reprieves for Donna and Jennifer, as if tenderhearted Parrish couldn't bear to take leave of Scottsdale without righting every wrong. Like-minded readers will lap it all up.

Pub Date: July 31st, 1996
ISBN: 0-525-94161-4
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1996


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