A Cape Cod prosecutor who’s just fought to put away a cold-blooded killer fights to free him in the wake of a series of crimes that look like his work.
Not that Martha Nickerson has any love for Manuel Rodriguez, who reacted to the news of his conviction for a murder last Memorial Day by trying to strangle her in open court. (Marty brings her Lady Smith .32 to his sentencing hearing, though “I would never fire it in this crowded courtroom.”) When a second scion of wealthy, insular Chatham is found stabbed to death exactly one year later with a pattern of wounds that strongly suggests the Roman numeral II, however, Marty’s disturbed by her recollection of what had seemed like the numeral I carved in Michael Scott’s chest. Are the mutilations nothing more than a coincidence, or the work of a copycat killer, as stop-at-nothing First Assistant DA Geraldine Schilling, insists, or do they indicate that a serial killer was celebrating a patriotic holiday by committing the murder of which Rodriguez was convicted? The lack of support in the prosecutor’s office—don’t even mention Marty’s ex-husband, globetrotting forensic psychiatrist Ralph Ellis, who makes a great living testifying on behalf of defendants pleading some kind of diminished responsibility—drives her into cahoots with Rodriguez’s upright public defender Harry Madigan, who urges her to bug her own office to see whether evidence is still being planted against his client. But now that La Schilling’s announced her candidacy for the DA’s post, will embattled Marty have her job long enough to monitor the equipment she’s set to eavesdrop on her colleagues?
The mystery is folderol—the motive comes out of nowhere, and the choice of Roman numerals is never explained—but first-timer Connors’s strong sense of pace and skeptical reflections about the morality of the legal system could help her ride a stronger plot into Scott Turow territory.