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A year after he's fired from the California law firm of Potter, Skarpellos by Ben Potter, who's found out he's having an affair with Ben's wife Talia, corporate-turned-criminal lawyer Paul Madriani is asked to join Talia's defense--on a charge of murdering Ben on the eve of his nomination to the Supreme Court. It's the other partner, Tony (""the Greek"") Skarpellos, who inveigles Madriani to put aside two other investigations--helping county medical examiner George Cooper figure out who abandoned his daughter to burn to death after a car crash, and defending high-profile hooker Susan Hawley, who doesn't want to implicate her well-placed clients in ""boinkgate"" even if she's granted immunity--and to sign on as assisting counsel to nitwit glamourpuss Gibert Cheetam, who promptly runs Talia's defense into the ground and jumps ship after the grand jury indicts her. So Madriani, his affair with Talia making him painfully vulnerable, takes over as chief counsel, infuriating his estranged wife Nikki even before he realizes that Skarpellos, who stands to inherit the hugely profitable firm if Talia takes the rap, has set him up. Martini (The Simeon Chamber, 1988), whose early scenes could have used some advice from assisting counsel too (the obligatory between-the-sheets flashback is introduced by noting ""the cold wetness of my own passions, a small portion of which had pooled in the creases of the sheets beneath where her loins had rested""), rouses himself for the well-paced trial scenes, which heat up even further when news of the Talia/Madriani affair reaches the ears of the presiding judge, determined that no mistrial's going to stand in the way of his reelection--and when Madriani decides to pin his hopes on an all-out assault on Skarpellos. The final surprise, though, is eminently guessable. Martini is no Scott Turow--his characters are thinner, his prose flabbier--but his legal intrigue will probably keep you up just as late.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1992
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Putnam