DESPERATE JUSTICE by Richard Speight


Email this review


Grieving mother kills the psycho who murdered her daughter--in an amateurish first novel mixing courtroom drama (limp), legal/moral issues (fuzzy), and domestic soap-opera (maudlin). Frank Jordan, a ""twenty-year-old reprobate with a history of weird acts,"" kills 12-year-old schoolgirl Wendy Rogers--and is quickly arrested. But, thanks to effective lawyering and a persuasive psychiatrist's expert testimony (details of which aren't made clear), Jordan is found not guilty by reason of insanity. So Wendy's mother Carol, stunned by the announcement of this verdict, pulls a gun from her purse and shoots Jordan dead--in front of dozens of witnesses (including TV news cameras). Most of the novel, then, follows Carol--a faceless, unconvincing character throughout--from arrest through trial. Out on bail, she hires a lawyer: young divorcee Ellen Hayes, who assisted (despite moral disgust) in Jordan's defense and is now out on her own. Carol also hires the expert-shrink from the Jordan case--despite her hatred for him, despite the fact that he's skeptical about an insanity-defense for Carol. And the trial itself is a sluggish anticlimax, winding up with a plea for mercy from the dead psycho's mother. Speight tries to find heavy ironies in the two insanity-defense cases here; but his presentation of the issues (both psychological and legal) is vague, simplistic, or downright confused. The emotional traumas--Carol's grief, her strained marriage, Ellen's trite career/motherhood conflicts--are delivered in soggy clichÉs and stilted dialogue. And the basic premises--dubious use of the insanity plea, vigilante justice on the part of outraged, grieving kin--have been explored in dozens of far better thrillers and courtroom dramas in recent years.

Pub Date: June 17th, 1987
Publisher: Warner