No sophomore slump for Connors: this courtroom sequel to Absolute Certainty (2002) moves her up to the big time.
After ten years, Martha Nickerson has left the Barnstable County prosecutor’s office to join her friendly adversary Harry Madigan as a criminal defense attorney and oppose her less-friendly former colleague Geraldine Schilling, now the District Attorney–elect whose new lapdog, J. Stanley Edgarton III, is trying Buck Hammond for a murder he obligingly committed on live TV. The case should be a slam-dunk for the prosecution, since practically everybody on Cape Cod has seen Buck shoot the police suspect who raped and murdered his seven-year-old son, and Buck dismisses the temporary insanity defense Harry plans as “a crock.” As the Christmas recess looms, however, the parent-rich jury seems more likely to find reason to acquit Buck than Buck himself would; Judge Leon Long likes Marty Nickerson; and “Mr. Ed-gar-ton the Third” can’t help getting on the judge’s bad side. Marty, who’s also defending a battered woman accused of killing the parole-officer lover who beat her once too often, worries that in both cases “I’m arguing that the dead guy deserved it.” But her problems get much worse when Judge Long is knocked out of the box by a murderous assault and replaced by a jurist who—having already jailed Harry repeatedly on contempt charges and made it clear that she’s ready to do the same to Marty—sets about methodically rewriting the defense-friendly rules for Buck Hammond’s trial. While that trial, full of startling surprises, remains at the center of Marty’s universe, Connors, herself a trial attorney for almost two decades, sneaks in such a clever way to link all three outbreaks of violence that even the most astute armchair detectives will be left at the post.
Devotees of Cape Cod wildlife, even in December, may be sorry Marty so rarely leaves the courtroom. For fans of legal intrigue, though, it doesn’t get any better than this.