When San Francisco D.A. Prentice Marshall “Skipper” Gates III, of all people, is charged with the death of a male teenage prostitute, the city braces for the first trial of the century, and attorney Mike Daley (Special Circumstances, 2000) scrambles to build a case.
Daley, narrator and protagonist, has some interesting entanglements of his own: his partner in Fernandez and Daley is ex-wife Rosie, and the only other lawyer in the firm is an ex-girlfriend who, like Daley, once worked for Gates’s law firm. Gates, who was in the middle of a campaign for California attorney general when the trouble started, is far from the ideal client: he’s insufferable, and his lack of candor continually hampers Daley’s efforts. His lawyer-daughter, Ann, is worse, however, as she tries time and again to insinuate herself onto the defense team. As the investigation broadens, it takes Daley around San Francisco—the Mission District, North Beach, Pacific Heights—where he deals with an interesting cross-section of locals, nearly all of whom hold him in high esteem. These include sleazy political consultants, a top-of-the-line private investigator, and a priest who has to go into the gutter to save his parishioners. A great deal of the story takes place in the courtroom, with the trial unfolding from Daley’s perspective. Here, the author, as expected, does a good job of getting into the mind of his character. The trial procedure is fascinating and more believable than most, as Siegel concentrates on legal strategies instead of lawyer’s egos.
No surprise ending, alas, but from beginning to end, an effective page-turner with a realistic, if somewhat cynical, climax that holds true to the powerhouse milieu in which Daley and his colleagues have been operating all along.