THE DITTO LIST by Stephen Greenleaf

THE DITTO LIST

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A few months in the busy, seedy life of L.A. divorce-lawyer D. T. Jones--a rough-but-noble, lovable scoundrel who looks like ""an assistant basketball coach at a religious college somewhere in south Georgia."" D.T.'s bread-and-butter practice is the weekly ""ditto list"": $200 uncontested divorces for a steady stream of low-income women, with most of the actual (minimal) work done by D.T.'s pretty, gay secretary Bobby E. Lee Merryweather. But during the period covered here D.T. also takes on three more unusual clients--whose problematic cases chug along side-by-side through this agreeably episodic entertainment. Problem-client #1 is upper-suburban housewife Mareth Stone, whose nasty businessman-husband is suing for divorce and custody of their two kids; and though Mareth isn't really an unfit mother (despite some emotional/drinking problems), D.T.'s only surefire weapon against the lawsuit is the reluctant use of sordid sexual blackmail. (The husband is a secret homosexual.) Problem-client #2 is battered, pregnant Lucinda Finders--a pathetic waif who can't stop loving her violent, jealous husband--and will eventually kill him in self-defense. And problem-client #3 is brave Esther Preston, a penniless victim of multiple sclerosis, long-divorced from a now-wealthy doctor; urged on by Esther's devoted nurse, D.T. tries to find a legal way to extract money from the uncaring ex-husband. . . and turns up an ugly secret from the Prestons' past. Meanwhile, of course, there are also vignettes from D.T.'s private life: his souring affair with trendy (fitness, psychobabble) Barbara; his one-night stand with Esther Preston's nurse; his continuing fondness for super-rich ex-wife Michelle, who's about to remarry; his edgy but soul-satisfying weekend expeditions with daughter Heather; his nervy response (more blackmail) to a malpractice suit. And finally, after doing well by all his clients and bidding Bobby E. Lee a sad farewell (Bobby can't stomach that gay-sex blackmail), D.T. shows up at Michelle's wedding--just in time for a cutesy twist-ending lifted right out of The Philadelphia Story. Throughout, in fact, Greenleaf dilutes the gritty textures here with sentimentality, gimmicky happy-endings, and TV-level chuckles. (Most irritating: a contrived running gag about what ""D.T."" stands for.) But, if too glossy and lightweight for Verdict-style impact, this lively mosaic--from the lawyer-author of an uneven mystery-series--supplies leisurely diversion most of the way through: a genial mixture of courtroom maneuvers, violent sideshows, and romantic fumbles.

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 1984
Publisher: Villard/Random House