A pair of Monster Moms take center stage in the latest legal whirlwind for New York Chief Assistant D.A. Butch Karp and his fearless wife Marlene Ciampi.
Still another shooting on the job drives Marlene abruptly out of her business protecting stalked women and into private practice just in time to take over the defense of collegiate baby-killer Sarah Goldfarb millions of miles away in Delaware. (The location is one of the many details of the case's real-life model that Tanenbaum hasn't bothered to change.) Back in Manhattan, Butch's office, under pressure because of a sudden rash of similar cases, is prosecuting another not-so-fictional Monster Mom of its own: Lourdes Bustamente, who tossed her unwanted newborn out a lavatory window and went back into the dance hall. As in all the pair's strongest outings (Falsely Accused, 1996, etc.), the two cases are knotted together—not because Butch and Marlene are arguing from opposite sides of the courtroom, but because they're both struggling to work toward a middle ground that acknowledges the enormity of infanticide while still recognizing its difference from, say, contract murder. As her parents sweat the details of their politically loaded cases, linguistic prodigy Lucy Karp, now 16, lands in the middle of an apparently more straightforward murder: the shooting of her friend Caitlin Maxwell's wealthy parents by a decorator her father had quarreled with. But Lucy doesn't believe the prisoner, a nice-seeming man who was teaching her this month's language, pulled the trigger, and her extra legal attempts to talk to him land her father in the soup, rounding out a strong collection of plotlines that ultimately rise above Tanenbaum's trademark endless details: descriptions of walk-on characters, reams of legal strategy, and more windy aphorisms than Goethe.
Think of a ’58 Chrysler, chunky with chrome and tailfins, but grounded finally by the kind of moral and spiritual reflection about the law most legal thrillers would get thrown out on a technicality.