An appealingly fallible hero who deserves the sequel an epilogue promises.


The pseudonymous Amanda Cross’s son, a New York public defender, tosses his hat into the ring with a legal thriller about—what else?—a New York public defender.

Generally speaking, admits Arch Gold, “I really don’t care whether my clients are guilty or innocent”; he doesn’t pick them any more than they pick him. But if he did pick, he’d certainly avoid Damon Tucker, the hulking black college kid accused of mugging and killing Charlotte King, whose career with high-profile p.i. firm Yates Associates was cut short when she went art-shopping around the corner from the Chelsea video store where Damon worked. The cops have Damon’s prints on a videotape in Charlotte’s purse and her prints on three $10 bills in his pocket; the defense has Damon’s furious insistence that Charlotte’s deathbed ID didn’t ID him. Except for a deft, unexpected development that suddenly puts the death penalty on the table, the case unfolds pretty much as you’d expect in court and out, with Arch convinced, but unable to prove, that Charlotte was killed by the untouchable boss she was touching in all the right places. In fact, Arch’s fixation on scary James L. Yates would make him an obvious candidate for Charlotte’s psychiatrist if Dr. Stern hadn’t checked out soon after his client courtesy of another suspicious mugging. What’s best here is Arch himself, proud of his courtroom technique but candid about the limitations that cause the defense, which initially looks promising, to blow up in his face. And although Arch’s cowboy techniques outside the courtroom—breaking and entering, carrying a concealed firearm, the whole nine yards—are both less legal and less believable, he at least has the grace not to pretend he does stuff like this all the time and it’s perfectly all right.

An appealingly fallible hero who deserves the sequel an epilogue promises.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-053812-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2003

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It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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What's most worthy in this hefty, three-part volume of still more Hemingway is that it contains (in its first section) all the stories that appeared together in the 1938 (and now out of print) The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories. After this, however, the pieces themselves and the grounds for their inclusion become more shaky. The second section includes stories that have been previously published but that haven't appeared in collections—including two segments (from 1934 and 1936) that later found their way into To Have and Have Not (1937) and the "story-within-a-story" that appeared in the recent The garden of Eden. Part three—frequently of more interest for Flemingway-voyeurs than for its self-evident merits—consists of previously unpublished work, including a lengthy outtake ("The Strange Country") from Islands in the Stream (1970), and two poor-to-middling Michigan stories (actually pieces, again, from an unfinished novel). Moments of interest, but luckiest are those who still have their copies of The First Forty-Nine.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1987

ISBN: 0684843323

Page Count: 666

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1987

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